News / Asia

Reactor Shutdown in South Korea Raises Blackout Fears

An employee of the Korea Power Exchange, a state company to check the country's flow of electricity, watches a huge screen monitoring power supply during power outages in Seoul, September 15, 2011.
An employee of the Korea Power Exchange, a state company to check the country's flow of electricity, watches a huge screen monitoring power supply during power outages in Seoul, September 15, 2011.
SEOUL — As northern India suffers another problem with widespread power outages affecting hundreds of millions of people, there are concerns South Korea that it could also face blackouts in the coming weeks. 

South Korea is warning of the possibility of power shortages in mid-August. That is when the vacation period ends and demand is expected to peak. At that time, four of the country's 23 nuclear reactors are likely still to be out of commission.

The country depends on atomic plants to generate more than one-third of its electricity.

The latest setback occurred Monday, when the No. 6 reactor at the Yeonggwang nuclear power plant in South Jeolla province, 330 kilometers south of Seoul failed. Officials say an alert signal for protection of the reactor triggered an automatic shutdown.

The reactor has had previous problems with its fuel rods, but there has been no announcement on the source or severity of this latest trouble.

Real-time data from monitoring stations at and surrounding the plant, posted on the Internet show no unusual levels of radiation. 

It is not known how long the reactor - capable of producing one million kilowatts of electricity - will be offline.

Also out of commission is South Korea's longest-running power reactor, Gori-1, which has also been plagued with problems in its 34 year history.

Roh Dong-seok, a senior nuclear power policy researcher at the Korea Energy Economics Institute, says it is important to make a distinction between malfunctions and accidents at reactors.

Roh says, just like an automobile with problems, malfunctioning equipment can be fixed and things can easily get moving again. But in South Korea, malfunctions at nuclear plants are erroneously described as accidents, giving people the impression that there has been serious damage.

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power corporation, which runs both of the reactors now offline, declined comment, Tuesday.

Government ministries and agencies overseeing nuclear power in the country have turned down repeated recent requests by VOA  to visit the Gori plant.

Scrutiny of South Korea's nuclear power system has increased since last year's calamity in neighboring Japan which, like South Korea, is poor in natural resources.

Japan, with a population of more than 120 million people, is the world's third largest economy. South Korea, with 50 million people, is the 15th largest.

A meltdown of three reactors at Japan's Fukushima-1 plant was triggered by a magnitude nine earthquake and huge tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Radiation forced the evacuation of numerous communities in the prefecture, contaminating rice fields and forcing a halt in sales of seafood caught off the Fukushima coast.

The disaster compelled Japan to temporarily shut down all its nuclear plants for safety checks, which ended last month.

Lee Boung-hee, the secretary-general of a group, Anti-Nuclear Plant Development Committee, in Samcheok, opposing a proposed nuclear power plant there, says, if a Fukushima-type accident occurs in his community, it will destroy half of the country. He contends South Korea is too small to safely host nuclear plants and its resource needs should instead be met by alternative and what he calls cheaper energy sources.

Researcher Roh Dong-seok at the Korea Energy Economics Institute says the solution is not that simple.

Roh says renewables, such as solar or wind power, are clean and easy to secure, but to call them cheaper is misleading. The development costs are very expensive.  Roh explains that, at present, nuclear power's wholesale cost is about three cents per kilowatt hour while, for alternative sources, it is 18 cents - six times as expensive.

In a joint report released last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are predicting that, despite the Fukushima disaster, the East Asia region will more than double its nuclear capacity in the next two decades. Huge growth for the atomic power industry is expected in China, which is facing a lack of its own energy resources to fuel its booming economy.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid