Nuclear operator temporarily suspends construction of 2 reactors

SEOUL-- Board members of South Korea's nuclear operator decided Friday to temporarily suspend the construction of two planned nuclear power plants in the southeastern part of the country.

The decision was made by the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) board and affects the construction of the Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors that had been under construction in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The suspension will be for three months, with board members to hold another meeting down the road to decide the fate of the reactors.

Samsung C and T, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction and Hanwha Engineering and 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 decision comes after President Moon Jae-in last month declared he will pursue clean and renewable energy and that he will halt construction of all new reactors and shut down aged 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.

The government said the temporary suspension will allow for debate and formation of public opinion on the matter.

The KHNP said it will soon send out official documents to construction companies involved in the building process about its decision as a total of 164 contracts worth 4.9 trillion won (US$4.3 billion) have already been signed.

It said the suspension of work could cost some 100 billion won in losses.

On Thursday, the board members failed to convene for the meeting due to the opposition from the unionized workers of the KHNP, who threatened legal action against the company and management for breach of trust and business malpractice.

The KHNP, in charge of the country's nuclear and hydro-electric power plants across the country, stressed a 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.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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