Approval at long lastThe Shin Hanul-1 reactor has become operational after gaining conditional approval nearly seven years after the permit was requested. The decision took eight months of deliberation by the Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. The commission held a marathon debate for more than eight hours at the 142nd meeting on July 9 before finally reaching conditional approval. The Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power will be testing the reactor for eight months and embark on commercial operation in March next year.
The commission, however, attached four conditions to the operation of the 1,400-megawatt new reactor. First, it must hand in a new test result on the passive autocatalyic recombiner (PAR) designed to prevent hydrogen explosion by controlling hydrogen concentration levels. The commission also demanded additional readiness on flight restriction above the skies of Uljin on the southern coast to lessen the risk of aircraft clashes.
If these conditions are not met, the permit will be canceled. They are perfectly in line with the demands by environmental civilian groups who oppose the construction of nuclear reactors and the new reactor.
The long-drawn-up decision was made after Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum called for a fast action. During a parliamentary questioning, he said it was wrong to idle a completed new reactor and promised to request fast action from the commission chief.
The power supply line has become worrisome due to summer heat. According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the summer power reserve ratio has hit the lowest of 4.2 percent for the first time in eight years. This summer is expected to be sizzling. The capital region, home to half of the population, entered the toughest Level 4 social distancing guidelines from Monday. Power demand will surge due to remote schooling and working. If the Shin Hanul-1 reactor had been operational, power supply would not have been a problem.
The presidential candidates of the ruling party and the government offices have been differing on the Moon Jae-in government’s nuclear phase-out policy. The debt of the state utility firm Korea Electric Power Corp. has already reached 132 trillion won due to the government-forced transition to renewables. Nuclear power is the practical solution to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Moreover, pressure about the rise in electricity bills is building up due to the shortage of power supply. The public must bear inconvenience and financial burden from the policy flop. Ditching commercial nuclear power cannot be a realistic concept for Korea.