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Nuclear operator opposed to permanent halt to power plant construction: board member

2017/07/16 21:54

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SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) -- The board of directors at South Korea's nuclear operator that recently voted for a temporary suspension of construction of two nuclear power plants is opposed to the permanent halt of the projects, one of its members said Sunday.

Cho Sung-jin, professor in the department of energy science at Kyungsung University and a non-permanent member of the board at the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), said the opposition to the permanent suspension was "unanimous."

   Last Friday, the board was in favor of the decision to temporarily halt the construction of the Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors under construction in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The suspension will be for three months, with board members to hold another meeting later to decide the fate of the reactors.

Among six permanent members and six non-permanent members, Cho was the only one to vote against the idea.

The KHNP board's decision came after President Moon Jae-in's declaration last month that he will pursue clean and renewable energy and that he will halt construction of all new reactors while shutting down old facilities that reach their max life cycle. The policy has raised controversy and questions about a potential spike in electricity prices and even power shortages moving forward.

This photo taken on July 14, 2017, shows the headquarters of </p><p>the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. This photo taken on July 14, 2017, shows the headquarters of

the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Cho said based on his research, he found the government policy "unacceptable."

   "I heard that the KHNP board will decide on the permanent suspension," Cho added. "I asked KHNP President Lee Kwan-sup and other board members which side they will take on the issue, and they all said they'd oppose the permanent halt."

   Cho also said his fellow non-permanent board members were actually against the temporary suspension but only voted for the idea because they felt powerless and knew they wouldn't get their wish anyway.

Following the KHNP's board's decision last Friday, the government said the temporary suspension will allow for debate and formation of public opinion on the matter.

The KHNP, in charge of the country's nuclear and hydro-electric power plants across the country, has insisted the final halt of work will only be implemented following close consultations with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. It has said every aspect of the move will be considered so as not to affect the lives of ordinary people and the national economy as a whole.

Unionized workers at the KHNP have threatened legal action against the company for breach of trust and business malpractice.

Samsung C&T, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and Hanwha Engineering & Construction have formed a consortium to build the two reactors that were about 29.5 percent complete as of the end of June. The Shin-Kori site currently hosts two reactors -- units 1 and 2 -- which began operating in 2011 and 2012.

The KHNP said 164 construction-related contracts worth 4.9 trillion won (US$4.3 billion) have already been signed, and added the suspension could cost about 100 billion won.

Unionized workers of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) protest the KHNP board's decision to temporarily halt the construction of Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors in Ulsan on July 15, 2016. (Yonhap) Unionized workers of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) protest the KHNP board's decision to temporarily halt the construction of Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors in Ulsan on July 15, 2016. (Yonhap)

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