South Korea’s Shin Hanul 1 approved for operation

13 July 2021

South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) on 9 July gave conditional approval for the operation of unit 1 at the Shin-Hanul NPP, more than a year after it was completed. Approval for the 1,400MWe reactor in the coastal county of Uljin, 330 kilometres southeast of Seoul, was granted provided further safety measures were put in place. The reactor was completed in April but has been off-line pending conclusion of a safety review, which began in November 2020.

The NSSC review looked into an array of safety issues, including the plant's passive autocatalytic recombiner (PAR), which is designed to prevent hydrogen explosions by reducing hydrogen concentration levels from the reactor's containment building during natural disasters.

South Korea introduced more stringent safety requirements after multiple hydrogen explosions occurred during Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.

The Shin-Hanul plant's PAR system received intense scrutiny after environmental groups claimed that its effectiveness had been overstated. However, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp (KHNP), insisted that there is no problem with the system. Commission members also requested more measures against potential terrorist attacks or aircraft crashes during the review.

The government plans to reduce nuclear energy to account for 23.9% of the country's total power generation by 2030 from around 30% last year. It targets to raise the proportion of renewable sources to 20% from 6.6% over the same period. According to the KHNP, 16 of the South Korea’s 24 nuclear power plants are currently operational, with seven undergoing maintenance. Shin-Kori 4 stopped operations in late May after a fire incident. South Korea is expected to have 28 nuclear reactors by 2022, including those now under construction, but the number will fall to 14 by 2038 as ageing plants are shut down.

Preparations for the first two units at the Shin Hanul NPP (formerly Shin Ulchin) site took place in May 2012. First concrete for unit 1 was poured in July 2012 and for unit 2 in June 2013. The 1,350 MWe pressurised water reactors were originally expected to enter service in April 2017 and April 2018. After delays, fuel loading at unit 1 was scheduled for June 2019 but was delayed further by NSSC safety checks and some modifications. 

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