Operator pushes back scheduled reactor work

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Operator pushes back scheduled reactor work

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), operator of nuclear reactors nationwide, yesterday postponed the start of regular maintenance on the Hanbit-1 reactor scheduled for today to Wednesday, citing a nationwide power shortage.

“We have decided to delay the maintenance of the Hanbit-1 reactor to 10 a.m. Aug. 28,” said the KHNP. “We have completed a probe into the impact of the delay and have concluded it won’t wreak havoc on safety.”

The Hanbit-1 reactor in Yeonggwang, South Jeolla, has a capacity of 950,000 kilowatts. The public company managing the reactor says it has enough plutonium fuel to run safely for two days. It began operating in 1986 and is 27 years into its expected 40-year life span.

Under the nuclear reactor safety law, KHNP should conduct regular maintenance of each reactor every 18 months. The maintenance lasts 60 days, during which time the reactor receives a new supply of plutonium.

The unprecedented reversal just a day ahead of the scheduled maintenance has sparked concerns that the government may be neglecting safety.

“When the power plant already has high level of fatigue after maximum operation due to a nationwide power shortage, delay of the regular maintenance could add more burden,” said an official with environmental groups in Yeonggwang. “It’s a shame KHNP has gone so far as to break the legal guideline, affected by the power shortage and fear of blackouts.”

Last Wednesday, the Hanbit-6 reactor abruptly shut down due to a malfunctioning coolant pump circuit-breaker indicator and resumed operations three days later after the part was replaced.

In addition to the Hanbit-1 reactor, nearly 10 reactors nationwide are set to undergo regular maintenance starting today through the middle of next month.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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