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IAEA Finds No Safety Problem At S. Korea's Oldest Nuke Reactors

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday that they found no problems with the safety of South Korea's oldest nuclear reactors.

The eight-member inspection team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog has carried out in-depth operational safety review of the Gori-1 nuclear power plant on the country's southeast coast since June 3 amid safety concerns following a February 9 blackout.

Nuclear safety has become a growing public concern in South Korea following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and revelations that Gori-1 officials tried to cover up a power outage at their plant in early February. One of Gori's two reactors lost power for 12 minutes during a safety inspection, but the incident did not come to light until March.

Wrapping up the review, the IAEA inspectors said there were no problems with the safety of the reactors' facilities, including an emergency back-up diesel generator that had also failed during the blackout.

Late last month, prosecutors indicted five senior engineers at the Gori-1 nuclear power plant for allegedly attempting to cover up the blackout.

The IAEA inspectors attributed the cover-up attempt to a lack of safety culture and poor leadership in emergency management, advising the reactor's operator to improve such aspects.

In spite of the conclusion, local officials, residents near the nuclear plant and anti-nuclear civic groups urged the government to close the reactor that failed, claiming that they cannot trust the results of the IAEA inspection.

Oh Kyu-seok, head of Gijang county, where the plant is located, told reporters that he "won't accept the results of the unilateral inspection that didn't include experts recommended by residents."

"If the Gori-1 nuclear reactor resumes operation without consent from residents, relevant authorities will take all the responsibility of the situation in the future," Oh was quoted by the Yonhap news agency as saying.

The 578-megawatt Gori-1 reactors were built with U.S. collaboration in 1978. Their 30-year operational lifespan was extended by ten years in 2008 with some technological innovations.

by RTT Staff Writer

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