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(LEAD) KHNP to review legality of early closure of Wolsong-1 reactor

2017/10/31 17:31

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(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remark in last four paras)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- The state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. will check to see if legal problems could arise from closing the Wolsong-1 reactor unit before the end of its life cycle, its chief executive said Tuesday.

KHNP CEO Lee Kwan-seop made the remark during a parliamentary audit as the government is pushing to permanently close the reactor located in Gyeongju, 370 kilometers south of Seoul, as part of its nuclear phase-out plan.

The reactor's 30-year operational life cycle ended in 2012, but it was extended for another 10 years to 2022. It is now the nation's oldest reactor, following the permanent shutdown of Kori-1 in June.

"We will have to carry out legal reviews on how the early shutdown (of Wolsong-1) could affect the company as a whole as such a move can entail liabilities," Lee told lawmakers.

Lee Kwan-seop, CEO of the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., speaks during a parliamentary audit held in the southeastern city of Ulsan on Oct. 25, 2017. (Yonhap) Lee Kwan-seop, CEO of the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., speaks during a parliamentary audit held in the southeastern city of Ulsan on Oct. 25, 2017. (Yonhap)

The government has pledged to scrap new nuclear programs and won't extend the life cycle of existing facilities to decrease the number of reactors to 14 in 2038. Such a move will be included in the government's long-term energy supply plan to be released next month.

"The government has not yet started talks with the KHNP on how to proceed with the early closure of Wolsong-1," Lee said. "We have to review its economic feasibility and negotiate compensation measures."

   Rep. Kim Kyung-soo of the ruling Democratic Party said the continued operation of Wolsong-1 would create 1.4 trillion (US$1.24 billion) to 1.7 trillion won of economic benefit, but about 2 trillion won was needed to keep the aged reactor up and running, citing a 2014 report by the National Assembly Budget Office.

South Korea currently has 24 nuclear reactors to generate about one third of its electricity, and two more are under construction in the southeastern city of Ulsan.

During the audit, lawmakers also took issue with the potential losses from abandoning plans to build four nuclear reactors.

The Shin Hanul 3 and 4 units, which were scheduled to be built in Uljin on the southeastern coast, received construction approval in February, while the process to push for the Cheonji 1 and 2 units in Yeongdeok, south of Uljin, did not proceed far.

In regard to the expenses already spent on new reactor programs, Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, said the government will compensate sunk costs, citing a KHNP estimate of 244.5 billion won.

The amount is much lower than estimates by opposition lawmakers, which range from 893 billion ton to 995.5 billion won. They said the cost was based on reactor design, local community subsidies, land purchase expenses and other preliminary costs.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

(END)

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