South Korea may elect to decommission aging reactor

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In December 2014, computers of workers at KHNP were attacked by hackers and the licensee still doesn’t know how much information was released.
In December 2014, computers of workers at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (the operator of the Wolsong nuclear power plant) were attacked by hackers, and the licensee still doesn’t know how much information was released.

On Thursday, January 15th, commissioners of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) in South Korea will meet to vote on whether or not to restart and extend the operational lifespan of the Wolsong Unit 1 reactor.  The NSSC was founded in October 2011 after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), the utility which owns and operates the nuclear power plant, is hoping to be allowed to operate the Unit 1 reactor beyond the 30 year design life of the reactor for another ten years, until 2022.

The Wolsong Unit 1 reactor was first brought online in 1983 but has been shut down for tests since the end of 2012, while KHNP applied to extend the operating lifespan.

There are many safety issues for the commissioners to take under consideration while reviewing the request to extend licensed operations.  The Wolsong nuclear power site was constructed on an active fault line, yet the plant was built with a seismic fortification level of 0.2g — which is lower than that of a hospital, in order to reduce the construction costs.

Five of the nine commissioners contacted by AP reporters expressed concerns about the continued operations of the Unit 1 reactor, if all five commissioners vote against allowing the licensee to restart operations — the Unit 1 reactor would be permanently shut down.  The commissioner’s decision is expected sometime in February at the earliest.

If the Wolsong Unit 1 reactor is not granted a license to extend the lifespan of the reactor, the reactor will be placed under safe storage and real decommissioning work would not begin until 2024 or until an interim storage facility for the spent nuclear fuel has been completed.

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