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Church to monitor nuclear plant safety

Concern over radiation prompts urgent safety review of major reactor

Church to monitor nuclear plant safety
Yonggwang Nuclear Power Plant, one of the largest nuclear installations in South Korea (photo courtesy of Yonggwang Nuclear Power Plant)

March 29, 2011

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The Committee for Justice and Peace of Kwangju archdiocese will monitor one of the country's largest nuclear power plants as scientists said radioactive particles had been found in the atmosphere over several areas of South Korea.

The committee announced March 28 it has sent a letter to Yonggwang nuclear power plant in Jeollanam-do province, requesting its cooperation in monitoring the safety of the plant, which is located in the archdiocese's jurisdiction.

The letter said the committee would inspect the plant's safety accident history since its opening in 1978, the safety procedures manual in case of emergency and the regular exercises to evacuate residents in mid April.

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety said today that radioactive iodine has been detected in 12 areas including Seoul.

Reports claimed the particles of iodine-131 might have come from the Japanese nuclear power plant at Fukushima that was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The concentrations were being analysed but were probably too low to pose any threat to people's health or the environment, the institute was reported as saying. Authorities confirmed on March 28 that small concentrations of radioactive xenon-133 had also been found in South Korea's north-east.

Augustine Kim Yang-rae, vice president of the committee, said fear and concern among residents neighboring the power plant have been increasing, so his committee resolved that monitoring of the plant is urgent during its meeting on March 15.

He said that their longer-term action plan will be drawn up in the light of the plant authorities' cooperation in revealing safety information during their visit.

The Yonggwang plant, one of the largest nuclear plants in the country, has been operating six reactors since 1978.

The Kwangju committee led the protest against building the most recent four of the plant's total of six reactors since 1992, during which priests of the committee were arrested and brought to trial.

Korea, the world's sixth largest nuclear power producer, is now operating 21 nuclear power plants commercially.

Related report Green group urges nuclear shift



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