South Korea Resort to Nuclear Power to Counter Heat Wave

published: 2018-08-03 11:34 | editor: | category: News

In a reversal of its policy to cut nuclear power, South Korea has decided to boost its nuclear power output by 5 GWh, in order to counter heat wave, with temperature hitting 24-year high the other day, which has led to hospitalization of some 1,000 persons, prompting families to turn on air conditioners in a rush and augmenting power consumption greatly.

Faced with spike in power consumption, KHNP will restart two nuclear reactors, now under annual maintenance, in the first half of Aug., ahead of schedule, while postponing the time for the maintenance of others, thereby adding the power supply of five nuclear reactors this summer.

The fourth nuclear reactor of Hanul nuclear power plant has resumed operation following completion of inspection recently, while the third nuclear reactor of Hanbit nuclear power plant and the second nuclear reactor of Hanul will be connected to grids again in the first half of Aug. KHNP has also announced postponement of the maintenance schedule of the first nuclear reactor of Hanbit and the first nuclear reactor of Hanul, in response to the much higher-than-expectation power consumption this summer.

Having experienced 14 days of heat wave up to now this summer, South Korea expects ever higher power needs, which is forecast to reach 88.3 GWh this week. Therefore, KHNP hopes to increase power supply by 5 GWh via the five reactors.   

Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry, and energy, predicts that power need will hit record high in next several weeks.

There are now 24 reactors in operation in South Korea now, with power output totaling 22,505 Mwe, meeting around one third of power need. Hanbit nuclear power plant, in Yeonggwang-gun in southwestern Korea, owns six pressurized-water reactors, with power output reaching 997 MW each, while Hanul nuclear power plant, in Uljin-gun in eastern Korea, one of the largest nuclear power plants worldwide, also has six pressurized-water reactors, with power output standing at 950-1,00 MW each and total installation capacity of 6,157 GW.

The Korean government has targeted cutting the number of reactors to 14 by 2038 before materializing the vision of nuclear-free homeland by 2060. Accordingly, except two new reactors already under construction, KHNP has aborted four new nuclear-reactor projects and will not build new one in the future.

Meanwhile, for the sake of clean air, the government will phase out coal-fired thermal power plants with over 30 years of operation, shifting to natural gas-fired thermal power plants, despite the latter's higher costs, and has targeted raising the share of renewable-energy power to 20% by 2030.

Given the trend of global warming and the policy of reducing coal-fired thermal power and nuclear power, which together account for 70% of power supply now, how to meet increasing power need will pose as a major challenge for the Korean government in years to come.

(Written by Daisy Chuang)

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