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IAEA nuclear inspection draws fire

Safety review of oldest reactor unreliable, activists say

Anti-nuclear activists protest IAEA inspection Anti-nuclear activists protest IAEA inspection
  • by Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • June 12, 2012
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared the country’s oldest reactor safe yesterday, drawing strong protests from anti-nuclear groups and local residents.

The UN nuclear watchdog had sent an eight-member inspection team to conduct a safety review following a 12-minute blackout on February 9 at the Gori-1 reactor in Busan, the country’s second most populous city.

Safety concerns were high in light of last year’s disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan and after revelations that officials had initially tried to cover up the power failure at Gori-1.

The details only emerged in March, including the fact that the emergency diesel generator had also failed.

The inspection which began on June 3 ended yesterday, with the IAEA team declaring the reactor is safe for continued use.

There were “no problems with the emergency generator and other systems are working well,” said team-leader Miroslav Lipar, head of the IAEA’s Operation Safety Section.

Lipar however recommended officials improve safety management at the plant.

The IAEA’s clean bill of health was immediately criticized by activists and people living near the plant, who dismissed the inspection as too short, rushed and therefore not “trustworthy.”

Local residents called for Gori-1 to be shut down permanently.

Anti-nuclear groups including the Anti-Nuclear Association in Busan called the IAEA inspection “totally valueless.”

“No nuclear power plant has ever been shut down as a result of an IAEA inspection, so how can we trust the IAEA’s credibility?”

Jeong Su-hui, the association’s secretary-general, said yesterday that only “four of the eight members on the inspection team actually work in the nuclear industry.”

Kim Ik-jung, head of the executive committee of the Korean Professors’ Organization for a Post-Nuclear Energy Society, said the inspection was “lacking in time and experts.”

Choi Gyo-seo, a spokesman for Korea Hydro Nuclear Power, which runs the plant, said today that the IAEA team had been fully briefed about the situation at the plant “two months before they visited.”

He added the final decision on what to do with the reactor will be made by the Presidential Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

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