25 April 2019

First New Reactor Connected to the Grid in the World in 2019, in South Korea

WNISR, Thursday, 25 April 2019

Shin Kori-4, located at Gori in the city district of Busan in the south east of the Republic of Korea, was connected to the grid on 22 April 2019, five years later than planned. The Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) owned reactor is the second APR1400 (Advanced Pressurized Reactor) design to begin operation and the nation’s 26th commercial nuclear reactor.

It is the first nuclear reactor to be commissioned in the world after Tianwan-4 started up six months ago in China.

KHNP originally planned for operation of Shin Kori-4 in 2014, however, operation of both Shin Kori-3 and -4 was delayed as a result of several safety related scandals that engulfed the Korean nuclear industry from 2012. In May 2013, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) confirmed a ten-year long quality-control scandal within the Korean nuclear industry. Shin-Kori-3 a well as unit 4, were found to have had falsified quality-control documents requiring the replacement of plant cabling (see South Korea section in WNISR2018). In April 2015, the NSSC postponed a decision on granting a license, following notification by General Electric that it would recall valve components installed in Shin Kori-3 and -4. NSSC found that nine valves were installed in both Shin Kori-3 and -4, which did not comply with the technical specifications. The operational license was only granted by the NSSC on 29 October 2015. Shin Kori-3 was connected to the grid in January 2016.

Corruption and safety violations in the Korean nuclear program have continued to emerge in recent years, with one nuclear industry whistleblower recently commenting “On principle, I don’t trust anything that KHNP built.”

A revised start date for unit 4 was given as 2017, however, the election of President Moon Jae-further set back these plans.

Two additional APR-1400 reactors remain under construction at Shin-Kori with work resumed on units 5 and 6 in October 2017, following the result of a Public Consultation Committee and Citizens Panel. The decision on Shin-Kori-5 and -6 was followed in December 2017 with the 8th Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity supply and demand (BPE), which marks a major shift in overall Korean energy policy, while confirming the gradual nuclear phase out road map announced in October 2017. In the period to 2030, five new reactors would begin operation, while seven reactors would be taken offline as they reach 40 years of operation. Nuclear power capacity would peak in 2022, before declining towards phase-out.