As the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) gave approval for the Wolsong-1 Nuclear Power Plant at Gyeongju to continue operating on Feb. 27, local opposition and civic groups strongly protested the decision.
On the same day, the Ulsan City Branch of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy said, “It is clearly a snatch that the NSSC decided to re-open the Wolsong-1 Nuclear Power Plant without opposition party members. The extension is invalid without definite data presentation about its safety and the investment of the proper expenses and agreements of residents.”
The Ulsan City Branch of the Labor Party said that the decision of the NSSC ignored concerns over the plant’s safety, which had been an issue in the past, and complained that it was a closed-door decision without the release of relevant information.
The party pointed out that not only residents of Pohang and Ulsan, who live within a 30-kilometer radius around the Wolsong-1 Nuclear Power Plant, but also the entire nation are now exposed to the risks of the old power plant with the decision.
The Ulsan Progressive Politics Forum Promotion Committee stressed, “It is the decision to approve a 10-year license extension, holding the lives of the people and Ulsan citizens as security.”
Lee Heon-seok, representative of Energy Justice Actions, said, “Even though it already cost more than 560 billion won [US$508.49 million] for replacing the components to extend the plant’s life, an astronomical amount of money will go into the plant for re-operation in the future.”
Yang-yi Won-young, member of the Energy Alternative Forum, said, “Unlike advanced countries, a nuclear operator in Korea has its own evaluation on safety inspection and applied techniques, which are 30 years old, for an up-to-date standard for safety. Moreover, the decision completely excluded the intentions of the people and the local residents.”
Enforcing the vote at 1 am on Feb. 27, the NSSC decided to continue operating the Wolsong-1 Nuclear Power Plant after seven government-appointed members of the commission voted in favor of the license extension, while two members abstained.
Even though the Nuclear Safety Act, which was issued on Jan. 20, requires it to collect resident opinions on the environmental impact assessment before the permission to re-operate power plants, the NSSC didn’t abide by the law.
Also, it allowed a member of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), who was involved in the task of selecting the power plant site, to vote, even though he has a clear reason for disqualification.
The KHNP explained, “We have verified the safety to continue the operation through inspections. We have replaced the most aged equipment and also installed equipment to cut off the outside leakage of radioactive substances in case of accidents. Therefore, the plant is nothing short of a new plant.”