South Korea extends nuclear probe, risks power shortfall

Tue Nov 6, 2012 2:10am EST
 

By Meeyoung Cho

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's main nuclear power supervisor extended an investigation into forged safety certificates for reactor components to three more facilities on Tuesday, a day after shutting down two reactors.

South Korea generates 30 percent of its electricity from 23 nuclear reactors at state-owned plants, and the government warned of the potential for unprecedented power shortages due to the shutdowns as demand peaks in winter.

Authorities were at pains to stress that the parts involved related to non-crucial aspects of the plants' operation and posed no risk to safety. Yet in the aftermath of the Fukishima nuclear accident in Japan, there were concerns the discovery could tarnish the image of the country's nuclear program.

"The commission will verify all the components at the reactors by setting up a private and public team...We will make regulations to supervise them," said one of the nine members of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, who could not be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A spokesman at the commission added that members of the private and public joint team would be announced on Wednesday at the earliest, along with their investigation schedules.

The three additional reactors under investigation are still running. The two reactors already shut down will remain closed until the parts are replaced.

With another five reactors already closed for regular maintenance and glitches, a total of 6,500 megawatts of power capacity has been removed from the grid, from a total capacity of 81,740 MW.

The two shut reactors, each able to supply 1,000 MW, were found to have components with certificates purportedly from U.S. and Canadian regulators that had been forged by the suppliers of the parts.   Continued...