Pohang plants double-check safety measures

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Pohang plants double-check safety measures

Manufacturers with local production facilities and nuclear reactor operators are double-checking their safety measures ahead of possible aftershocks following the 5.4-magnitude earthquake in Pohang, North Gyeongsang.

The Wolseong 1 nuclear reactor, situated 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter, is at the most risk. The plant, already operating beyond its original lifespan, was already considered to be particularly vulnerable to disasters.

Even Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power reported in a board of directors meeting held Thursday that, “It is inevitable to shutdown [Wolseong 1] earlier than scheduled to follow the government’s energy policies.”

The institution added that there is not yet a concrete date for when the plant will close. The decision involves multiple processes including approval from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission and a review of the economic impact of maintaining the plant.

Still, the institution is confident that all nuclear power plants in the country - including the Wolseong 1 - are able to withstand earthquakes up to 6.5-magnitude. A spokesperson from the institution confirmed that there was no problem with the normal operation of the nuclear power plant or any leakage of radiation.

The spokesperson added that the institution is enhancing durability of Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear reactors currently in construction so they can stand 7.4-magnitude earthquakes.

Apart from nuclear reactors, the production facilities of major manufacturers temporarily halted operations after the earthquake, either due to the evacuation of staff or the need to halt sensitive machines. No manufacturers have reported major problems or danger from the earthquake.

Steelmakers Posco and Hyundai Steel, which have production sites in Pohang, concluded that the earthquake caused no harm to their facilities after an inspection Wednesday, but as public concerns remain they are keeping a close watch on the situation.

“There was a little shaking yesterday but everything is operating on track without any malfunctions,” a spokesperson from Posco said on Thursday. “We are closely watching out for possible aftershocks.”

A Hyundai Steel spokesperson also said that staff at the Pohang factory had done an emergency drill right after the earthquake but were put back to normal operation soon after as no problems were spotted. The company is preparing to up its donations in an effort to help affected citizens in Pohang.

Major tech companies like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and LG Display that have factories in the area reported little impact from the earthquake.

Staff from Samsung Electronics factory in Gumi, North Gyeongsang, evacuated the building for a while but soon came back for normal operations. A Samsung spokesperson said they already have tight guidelines against disasters and will follow them in the future as well.

LG Display saw facilities halt operations temporarily after machines sensed the vibrations.

“They were programmed to do so in case of emergencies, but soon resumed operations as no problem was spotted,” a spokesperson from LG Display said.

Chipmaker SK Hynix also experienced a similar situation. Some machinery halted operations but was soon back online.

According to the company, its facility can withstand up to a 6 or 7-magnitude earthquake. Oil refiner and chemical company SK Innovation’s factories were not much affected as they were constructed to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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