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(LEAD) S. Korea to ship boric acids to help stabilize Japan's nuclear reactors
SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to transfer its reserve of boric acids to Japan to help the country stabilize quake-damaged nuclear reactors that have started to release radioactive material, the government said Wednesday.

   The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said that Tokyo requested assistance of the key material vital for stopping fission nuclear reactions after its own stockpile was largely used up at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

   The state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., which operates South Korea's 21 commercial reactors, said it has 309 tons of the material in powder form and could transfer 52.6 tons in the next few days, the ministry said. It said the remainder is adequate for six months of use.

   "Seoul has decided to provide whatever reserves it can spare without jeopardizing local nuclear operations," a ministry official said. "Depleted reserves will be restocked once the emergency situation has passed."

   Boric acid is a key material that goes into control rods used to halt or slow down fission reactions at nuclear reactors. Japan has mixed large amounts of the material with seawater and poured them into the reactors as an emergency measure.

   The Fukushima power plant, located about 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, was hit hard by a record 9.0- magnitude quake last week. Explosions have been reported in four of its six reactors, causing radiation to be vented into the environment.

   Besides providing boric acid, local oil companies said they plan to ship refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and kerosene to Japan after many refineries were forced to shut down due to the devastating quake.

   Local oil companies such as S-Oil Corp., SK Energy Co. and GS Caltex Corp. said they have received requests from Japanese companies such as JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. for assistance.

   Refiners said they are assessing their production capabilities and plan to ship what they can to help Japan better cope with the current crisis situation.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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