SEOUL – South Korea on Tuesday shut down two nuclear reactors and delayed the scheduled start of operations at two others as part of a widening investigation into a scandal involving fake safety certificates.
The latest move means 10 of the South's 23 nuclear reactors are currently offline for various reasons, stoking fears of a possible energy shortfall this summer. Nuclear power is meant to meet more than 35 per cent of national electricity needs.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said it had shut down two reactors – one at the Gori nuclear complex and another at the Wolseong plant – after learning that both had used parts supplied with forged quality warranties.
The scheduled resumption of another reactor under maintenance at Gori, and the start of a new reactor at Wolseong were postponed for the same reason, the commission said.
Parts used at all four reactors will have to be replaced, it added.
South Korea's nuclear sector has been dogged by a series of malfunctions, forced shutdowns and corruption scandals that have undermined public confidence already shaken by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
All parts supplied for use in South Korean reactors require quality and safety warranties from one of 12 international organisations designated by Seoul. Last year, officials said eight suppliers were found to have faked warranties covering thousands of items used in a number of reactors.
Although they were "non-core" components that presented no public safety risk, the authorities instigated an inspection of all reactors nationwide and ordered the replacement of any parts supplied with forged documentation.
Earlier this month, six nuclear power engineers and suppliers were jailed for their part in the scandal.
In May last year, five senior officials of the state-run Korea Hydro Nuclear Power Co. were charged with trying to cover up a potentially dangerous power failure at the country's oldest Gori-1 reactor.
Despite increasing public concern, the government has vowed to push ahead with its nuclear power programme, and plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.AFP