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Nuclear reactors switched back on as heat wave continues

July 23,2018
The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Corp. (KHNP) has decided to restart suspended nuclear plants in order to meet the growing demand for electricity as the summer heat wave continues.

The state-run nuclear power operator on Sunday said it will be rebooting the Hanbit No. 3 nuclear reactor and Hanul No. 2 reactor, both currently suspended for maintenance, in the second and third week of August when it expects power demands to reach a peak.

The Hanbit No. 3 reactor has been suspended since May 11 and maintenance is scheduled to finish by Aug. 8. The Hanul No. 2 reactor, which has been undergoing maintenance since May 10, will resume operations by Aug. 12.

The nuclear power operator also said it will be delaying the maintenance schedule for two nuclear reactors - Hanbit No. 1 and Hanul No. 1 - which were initially to be shut down on Aug. 18 and Aug. 29.

Maintenance on Hanul No. 4 was finished on Friday and it is expected to reach full capacity by Tuesday.

The KHNP anticipates that it will be able to secure an additional 5 million kilowatts of power with the five nuclear reactors online.

The government estimated that the power demand this week will likely reach a maximum 88.3 million kilowatts due to the heat. If so it would surpass the highest ever peak - 88.26 million kilowatts recorded on Feb. 6.

“As the heat wave has continued for several days, we expect electricity demand to surge to an all-time record,” said Paik Un-gyu, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, while visiting a power grid in Tteukseom, Seoul on Sunday. “But supplying stable electricity is a possibility as we have secured a power supply as planned and we also have emergency resources.”

On Saturday, KHNP CEO Chung Jae-hoon, toured nuclear power plants in Ulsan, North Gyeongsang and asked employees to do their best to provide a stable power supply.

Despite the government confidence in the stability of the energy supply, there were several blackouts over the weekend.

On Saturday night an apartment complex in Cheongnyangri, central Seoul, went dark for two and a half hours due to a surge in air conditioning usage. An apartment in Sanggye-dong in Nowon District, northern Seoul, also blacked out around the same time, while earlier in the day an apartment complex and a discount mart in Goyang, Gyeonggi lost power.

The government in December last year projected this year’s maximum power demand to be 87.5 million kilowatts. However, that prediction was broken when it reached 88.08 million kilowatts on Friday.

The government said the electricity power reserve ratio, the ratio in which additional power can be provided when reactors are at full capacity, has remained around 10 percent, which is sufficient to maintain a stable supply.

The recent heat wave has raised concerns around the Moon Jae-in government’s policy of phasing out the nation’s nuclear power. Currently 16 out of 24 nuclear reactors are in operation.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]