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S. Korea Shuts Down Two Nuke Reactors Due To Malfunctions

Two nuclear reactors at separate atomic power plants in South Korea were shut down on Tuesday because of technical problems.

Announcing shutdown of the reactors at Shingori and Younggwang, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), the plants' operator, said there was no apparent danger of a radiation leak at either site.

The Shingori 1 Reactor in Busan, 450 kilometers south-east of capital Seoul, was shut down after a warning signal indicated a malfunction in the control rod, which is used to control the rate of fission of nuclear materials, the Yonhap news agency reported quoting a KHNP statement.

It is for the first time that the 1,000-megawatt reactor was shut down due to a malfunction since it began commercial operation in February, 2011.

The unit-5 reactor at the Younggwang plant, located 350 kilometers south-west of Seoul, was forced to stop after its steam generator showed a low water level.

"Both power plants remain stable and pose no threat of radiation leakage," the statement said, adding that separate investigations were on to find out the exact cause of the malfunctions.

However, the incidents are apparently adding to already heightened public fears in South Korea over the safety of nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear accidents last year.

"Problems in the control rod that is a key safety feature to control nuclear fission could lead to major accidents when coupled with other natural disasters or malfunctions," the Korean Federation of Environment Movement, the apex body of various civic environmental groups, said in a press release.

"The KHNP and the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission must identify the fundamental problem and resolve the people's fundamental concerns," the release added.

South Korea currently operates 23 nuclear reactors, meeting about 30 percent of its total power consumption. The country plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030. It has also won contracts for constructing nuclear power plants in some Gulf countries.

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