South Korea shuts down 2 nuclear reactors over forged parts, straining power supply

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Debris scattered before the sixth reactor building of stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to the journalists at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan on Feb. 28, 2012.

Credit:

Yoshikazu Tsuno

South Korea today halted operations at two nuclear reactors after discovering some 5,000 parts used on site had fake quality certificates, reported BBC News, a move officials warned is likely to severely strain power supply in coming winter months. 

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The parts in question were "non-core" and do not pose safety problems but the closure will make for an "unprecedented" power shortage there, knowledge economy minister Hong Suk-woo said, according to BBC

The two reactors are part of the 1978-built Yeonggwang nuclear complex, South Korea's oldest, which is located outside the southern city of Busan, said Agence-France Presse.

Hong said officials were also investigating allegations of collusion on the part of the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, said AFP, having been alerted by the May arrest of five of the plant's engineers on charges of attempting to cover-up potentially disastrous power failures there. 

The forged certificates related to products worth a total of 820 million won ($750,000), said CNN, their contracts dating to between 2003-2012. 

The two reactors are expected to stay closed until January so technicians can replace the parts, reported AFP, citing Hong as saying that if it takes them longer the nation will experience a "dramatic" drop in supply (an estimated 300,000 kilowatts compared to the usual 4.5 million kilowatts for January). 

The scandal comes amid heightened attention to nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crisis last year.