Shin-Hanul No. 1 reactor delayed 6 months at worst possible time
On Monday, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said that commercial operations will begin in September or October.
The announcement comes as oil prices near records and as the government does an about face on nuclear energy in general.
"The operation has been delayed as we have found errors during the test runs," a ministry official said, adding that delays are not uncommon. "Operations often failed to meet schedules according to the situation as it is a trial run."
Construction began on the 1,400 megawatt reactor in 2011, with commercial operations originally scheduled for April 2017.
It was completed in April 2020.
The formal opening was repeatedly delayed, once for a software glitch and once due to a nearby earthquake. Safety evaluation problems were reported, and changes in regulations related to building materials also caused problems.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission under the Prime Minister's office has delayed the approval of the nuclear reactor operations citing various reasons, including concerns over airplanes crashing into the reactor.
It gave a conditional approval in July.
Shin-Hanul reactor No.1 is not the only nuclear plant delayed during the Moon Jae-in government. Shin-Hanul No.2 was supposed to go into operation in April 2018.
The Safety and Security Commission has pushed the approval to March 2023, citing concerns similar to those expressed about the first reactor.
Shin-Kori reactor No.5 was supposed to start operating in October last year, while the No.6 reactor was supposed to go into operation in October this year, but the schedules were delayed.
Shin-Kori reactor No.5 is currently under construction with the goal of being up and running in March 2024. The No. 6 reactor is scheduled to open in March 2025.
As Shin-Hanul reactor No. 1 is to go into operation under a new government after the March 9 presidential election, the Moon government will end its term without the opening of a single new reactor.
Korea opened its first nuclear reactor in 1978 and now has a total of 26.
During most presidential terms since then, at least one reactor has been switched on.
Moon shut Korea's first nuclear reactor, the Kori 1, and shut the Wolsong No.1 reactor.
The president, who has pushed the phasing out of nuclear reactors, last month requested that the government speed up its evaluation new nuclear power plants.
He stressed that despite the delays due to earthquakes and the supply of materials, improvements have been made in terms of safety and investment.
"If only the Safety and Security Commission had made its approval when it should have, we might have had the nuclear reactors up and running as planned," said Jeong Yong-hoon, a professor of nuclear and quantum engineering at KAIST.
"A single nuclear reactor could have substantially replaced energy imports," Jeong added. "At a time like this, when the oil price is soaring, we need to turn on the nuclear reactor."
BY KIM NAM-JU [email@example.com]