Lee orders all nuclear reactors to be inspected

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Lee orders all nuclear reactors to be inspected

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A team led by Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-ho inspects the diesel engine room of the Shin Kori 1 nuclear reactor at the Kori Nuclear Power Plant yesterday. Lee said all 21 reactors operating in Korea are safe, but stressed the importance of precautions. [YONHAP]


With the possibility of a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, the Korean government is now looking at its own nuclear plants, questioning their safety. President Lee Myung-bak ordered an examination of all nuclear plants in the nation, sending Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-ho to the Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Gori, a village in Busan in southern Korea.

The Kori Nuclear Power Plant is the site of the nation’s first nuclear reactor, which was built in November 1971. It now has five operating reactors with three additional reactors under construction. Minister Lee was sent to Busan to check the preparedness of the facility against natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

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The National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee also agreed yesterday that Korea’s measures for a possible earthquake should be examined.

“Through a simulation of a possible 9.0-magnitude earthquake hitting Japan’s west coast by the Korea Meteorological Agency, it was seen that a massive tsunami would hit our shores,” said Grand National Party Representative Kim Tae-won, who said that Korea would be affected in minutes by waves over 10 meters (32.8 feet) high. According to his data, Pohang in north Gyeongsang would be hit in 17 minutes, while Busan would have the most time, at 59 minutes. Democratic Party Representative Lee Yoon-seok said that Korea was no longer a safe haven from earthquakes.

Another lawmaker also expressed concern. “We [averaged] only 18 earthquakes a year until 1996, but after 1997 Korea has experienced an average of 42 quakes a year. In 2009, there were 60 earthquakes. Just 16.3 percent of buildings nationwide have been constructed quake-proof and Seoul ranks among the lowest,” said DP Representative Jang Se-hwan. “Countermeasures are desperately needed.”

GNP Representative Ryu Jung-hyun warned of the risk the Korean Peninsula faces in being exposed to Japan’s nuclear reactors exploding on one side and to China, also at risk for earthquakes, building nuclear reactors on the other. “We need to come up with a contingency plan, as we can directly be affected in the case of radiation exposure,” said Ryu.

Since the problems at Fukushima, civic groups have been protesting in front of nuclear plants in Korea out of safety concerns.

According to the Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety, if radiation levels exceed 1 millisievert an hour, citizens should remain inside buildings, following international safety guidelines. Methods for preventing radiation exposure are similar to measures taken against yellow dust that blows from the Gobi Desert in China to Korea every spring. Citizens should avoid going outside, wear masks over their faces at all times and avoid getting wet in rain. Wells and containers of food and water stored outside should be sealed.

For now, the danger from Japan remains low. The secretarial staff headed by Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee said during a meeting yesterday that the Fukushima accident has not affected the Korean Peninsula.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[연합]
李대통령, 국내 원전 안전점검 지시
교과부 홈페이지에 방사능 측정 결과 매일 공개

이명박 대통령은 16일 일본 원자력발전소 폭발을 계기로 국내 원전 시설의 안전점검을 지시한 것으로 알려졌다.

특히 이 대통령은 이날 이주호 교육과학기술부 장관을 고리 원전시설로 보내 지진.해일과 같은 재해 대비 현황을 점검토록 했다.

고리 지역에는 우리나라 최초로 건설된 원전을 포함해 현재 5기가 가동 중이고, 추가로 3기가 건설되고 있다.

청와대는 임태희 대통령실장 주재로 수석비서관회의를 열고 일본 대지진 발생에 따른 원전 폭발 대책과 국내 원전의 안전 점검 방안에 대해 논의했다.


김희정 청와대 대변인은 브리핑에서 "국민이 안심할 수 있게 해야 한다는 대통령의 뜻에 따라 오늘 이주호 장관이 고리를 방문했다"면서 "대통령은 직접 현장을 점검한 다음에 보완할 게 있다면 대응책을 마련하도록 지시했다"고 말했다.

김 대변인은 "전국 70개소에 운영 중인 환경방사선량률 관측 결과 일본과 가장 가까운 동쪽 지역에도 평시와 같은 수준으로 나왔다"면서 "한반도 전체가 매우 안전하다는 보고가 있었다"고 밝혔다.

정부는 앞으로 교육과학기술부 인터넷 홈페이지를 통해 환경방사선량률 측정 결과를 매일 공개하기로 했다.

청와대 핵심 참모는 국내 원전 정책을 재검토해야 한다는 일부 지적에 대해 "국내 원전은 설계 때부터 효율성보다 안전에 중심을 두고 건설했다"면서 "과학에 근거를 두지 않은 정치적인 주장"이라고 일축했다.

한편 정부는 일본의 요청에 따라 재난민에게 가장 시급한 생수와 물탱크, 담요, 매트리스를 긴급 지원키로 했다.

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