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South Korea shuts more nuclear reactors over fake certificates

Reuters, 28 May 2013

South Korea said on Tuesday it was
suspending the operations of two nuclear power reactors and
extended a shutdown of a third to replace cables that were supplied using fake
certificates, threatening power shortages in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

The government warned there could be
"unprecedented" electricity shortages and rolling blackouts this summer due to
the nuclear shutdowns. South Korea
previously halted the operations of some of its 23 reactors last November after
a scandal emerged over parts being supplied using fake documents.

The Asian country is heavily dependent on
oil, gas and coal imports,
but usually gets about a third of its electricity from nuclear power

"This is a separate case from the last
investigation," said Kim Kyun-seop, president & CEO of Korea Hydro and
Nuclear Power Co Ltd, which runs nuclear reactors in South Korea
and is owned by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp.

The new case relates to forged documents
on cables worth 6 billion won ($5.35 million) provided in 2008, Kim and energy
ministry officials said, declining to identify the cable producers.

The reactors, which each have a capacity
of 1,000 megawatts (MW), would remain closed for about four months, the
government said.

Of the three reactors, two are in Kori,
about 320 km southeast of the capital Seoul, and one is in Wolsong, about 280 km
from Seoul, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said.

A fourth newly built nuclear power
reactor, also in Wolsong, which is waiting for operational approval, would also
have its cable replaced, the statement added.

The emergence of a new scandal will be
damaging for authorities and South Korean President Park Geun-hye pledged at a
cabinet meeting a thorough investigation.

The energy ministry said it would ask the
international nuclear safety evaluation body Tuv Sud to include the latest case
in a review of safety at all reactors, which started this week.


The nuclear problems could increase the
risk of power shortages in the hot Korean summer when power demand is seasonally
high for air conditioning.

The energy ministry warned the worst
shortages could occur in August, and it would consider various measures
including rolling blackouts and spreading out holidays to curb demand.

"We expect unprecedented supply shortage
this summer as we have to meet power demand while three reactors are halted,"
said Han Jin-hyun, Vice Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy.

He added power saving measures would be
unveiled this Friday.

The energy ministry sees power supply this
summer at about 77,000 MW, less than 80,000 MW projected before the closure and
short of demand projection of 79,000 MW.

Last year, South Korea was forced to take
power saving measures to avoid blackouts after it closed two reactors to replace
parts supplied with fake certificates and extended the shutdown of another
reactor where microscopic cracks were found.