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South Korea watchdog to decide fate of ageing nuclear reactor

South Koreaࢀ™s second oldest nuclear power plant is being considered for closure, with the countryࢀ™s nuclear watchdog citing recent security breaches as a chief concern in whether it will remain open.

The decision, on whether to approve to extend Wolsong’s lifespan by 10 years to 2022, is being anticipated by operators of other ageing plants, including the oldest Kori No.1, which had its lifespan extended by 10 years to 2017.

“The operator failed to prevent it and they don’t know how much data has been leaked. If the old reactor is still allowed to continue to run, it will just hike risks,” said Kim Hye-jung, one of the commissioners who will this month review an application to restart the 679 MW nuclear reactor.
Nuclear energy accounts for about a third of South Korea’s electricity supply and if this and other closures in the sector do go ahead, it will add to the countryࢀ™s already soaring energy import bill.

It could also mean increased greenhouse gas emissions, making it harder for Seoul to achieve its target of cutting emissions by 30 per cent of business as usual by 2020.

The operator, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd, has been seeking to restart Wolsong No.1 and runs 23 reactors, producing a third of South Korea’s power. It says that its reactors are safe as they are inaccessible from external networks, like the company’s hacked computers or the Internet.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission will start on January 15 at the earliest to review and Reuters reports that five of the nine commissioners contacted expressed doubts about the likelihood of Wolsong remaining open, enough for permanent closure.