Uljin County will accept 2 more nuclear reactors

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Uljin County will accept 2 more nuclear reactors

The regional government of Uljin County, North Gyeongsang, and the central government on Friday finalized an agreement to build two more nuclear reactors in the East Coast county, already home to six operating reactors and two under construction at the Hanwool nuclear power plant complex.

The deal comes after 15 years of negotiations, particularly regarding the sensitive issue of compensation.

Friday’s agreement stipulates that the Korea Hydro Nuclear Power Corporation (KHNP) will pay 280 billion won ($251 million) in compensation to the local government.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won witnessed the signing of the agreement Friday morning at the Uljin County Office, expressing his appreciation to residents for accepting additional reactors after a decade of arguments and the potential of safety risks.

“Nuclear power is an unavoidable choice for Korea, considering the shortage of natural resources, its manufacturing-oriented economic structure and national carbon reduction obligations in relation to the global society,” said Chung. “Regions [like Uljin] that volunteer to take a facility, which benefits the entire nation, deserve an appropriate amount of incentives from the central government.”

In addition to the six operating reactors at the Hanwool complex, KHNP proposed the creation of new reactors at the Sinhanwool complex, which will eventually house four reactors.

Two of the reactors are currently under construction, but the KHNP postponed detailed planning for the other two reactors mainly due to strong local opposition to the level of compensation proposed.

Uljin County demanded 500 billion won in compensation while the public company KHNP said it could only afford 60 billion won.

The money will help pay for eight community infrastructure projects, including an autonomous high school, a hospital and an extended water main.

The KHNP plans to both supply funds and build and operate some community welfare centers, which also meets one of Uljin’s demands for job creation.

The regional economy is also expected to get a boost, as the KHNP will hire more than 190 builders and nuclear facility companies for the Sinhanwool complex. Hundreds of parts suppliers also are expected to benefit in the deal.

When the two newly confirmed reactors are completed - probably by 2022 - there will be a total of 10 reactors at the Hanwool and Sinhanwool complexes responsible for more than 45 percent of the nation’s nuclear power production.

The agreement was an unavoidable choice for the central government and KHNP, after residents of the nearby city of Samcheok in an October vote expressed their firm virulent opposition to building a nuclear power plant there.

After the agreement was signed, the prime minister visited Yeongdeok County, North Gyeongsang, in the afternoon to persuade residents there to accept a nuclear power plant.

Yeongdeok and Samcheok were jointly selected by the government as candidates for a new nuclear power complex.

Chung on Friday suggested that the central government could provide 1.5 trillion won in compensation to Yeongdeok County if residents accept the power plant.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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