CEO defends nuclear reactors

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CEO defends nuclear reactors

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power CEO Lee Kwan-sup on Monday said he would do all he can to prevent permanent shutdown of construction on two nuclear reactors after President Moon Jae-in, who has vowed to ween the country off nuclear power, ordered a temporary halt to the project.

“We have already spent 1.6 trillion won [$1.41 billion] on construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors, and there might be legal and compensation issues if the construction is completely halted,” Lee said during a press conference Monday. “We will try to explain to the people that the nuclear power plants are safe during the three-month public assessment process.”

President Moon temporarily halted construction of the reactors on June 27, and on Friday the company’s board agreed to follow the order. The Moon administration plans to establish a commission that will gather public opinion on the project for three months to decide on the final fate of the reactors. Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power is expected to defend the project during that time.

“As part of the management, I think it is better to continue building the nuclear power plants, and the board members feel the same way,” Lee said. “I also think the commission needs to discuss how to compensate construction companies that were involved in the project as well.”

The board was initially supposed to meet on Thursday to discuss a temporary halt to the project, but it was delayed after members of the company’s labor union and people living near the construction site blocked board members from entering the building. They want the project to continue.

“I totally understand what residents near the construction site are saying, and I think they are reasonable to express their concerns,” Lee said. “What I can say at this point is that the government has decided to hear the public’s opinion on this issue, and I will do my best to reduce the negative impacts in the region and not have the government commission decide to completely shut down construction.”

When asked who would be responsible for compensation and damages from the shutdown, Lee said Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power was not currently looking into the issue yet.

“The government has decided to establish a commission and halt construction through its cabinet, which is the highest decision-making organization, and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power followed its decision as a public institution,” Lee said. “Whoever is responsible [for the damage] is not something we have power to decide, and we are not reviewing the issue.”

On whether the government’s decision would hurt exports of nuclear-related technologies, Lee admitted that he couldn’t say for sure that the permanent shutdown of Shin Kori 5 and 6 would have any impact on it.

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