Past and Future of
Nuclear Power in Korea

KHNP to take the lead in the global nuclear renaissance

The following article was contributed by Lee Woo-bang, senior vice president of the Business Division of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. on the occasion of 30 years of Korean nuclear power -- Ed.
A timeline of the nuclear system:
The nation began participating in international efforts toward the peaceful utilization of nuclear power in August 1955, when it attended the "First International Conference for the Peaceful Use of Atomic Power"in Geneva. In February 1956, the nation also signed a contract with the United States for the "Cooperation for Use of Nuclear Power for Non-Military Purposes."Domestically, it established an atomic power department in the technical education bureau of the former education ministry in March 1956. In February 1958, the National Assembly passed the Atomic Energy Act, which went into effect in March.
The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute was officially launched in 1959, and the nation began nuclear research in earnest with the operation of the Triger Mark-II in March 1962, which is the nation's first nuclear reactor for research purposes.
Prompted by the "Five-Year Economic Development Plan,"which began in the middle of the 1960s, the nation's electricity demand rose sharply and the importance of nuclear energy further grew, ushering in the 1970s, when the nation was hit severely by the oil crisis.
To cope with the lingering difficulties, the nation began work to lay the groundwork for nuclear plants while sending missions to advanced nations like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. It selected Wolnae, Kilchon and Kori in South Gyeongsang Province as the sites for the nuclear plants. In April 1968, the government named the Korea Electric Power Corp. as the organization in control of the nuclear plants.
The construction of the nation's first nuclear reactor, the Kori Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 with a capacity of 587,000kW proceeded in a turn-key method with foreign builders taking charge of architecture/engineering, manufacturing, construction and start-up.
Despite the merits of lessening the risk for the project, that system failed to provide the nation with technology transfer. In January 1969, the government selected Westinghouse of the United States as the contractor to open the site office in September 1970. In March 1971, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kori Plant was held. The U.S. firm was in charge of the NSSS (Nuclear Steam Supply System), while General Electric was responsible for the Turbine-Generator System.
Hyundai Engineering and Construction engaged in the NSSS portion of the project, while Dong-Ah Construction was in charge of the turbine system. Yuyang Nuclear worked in the area of NDE (Non-Destructive Examination), while KEPCO was in charge of Integrated Project Management, thus enabling the nuclear plant to generate electricity for the first time on April 29, 1978.
The government decided to set up additional nuclear plants to address the ever-growing need for electricity in line with the rapid economic growth of the early 1970s. KEPCO signed a contract with Westinghouse in November 1976, toward that end. The Kori Nuclear Unit 2 began commercial operation in July 1983, after a six-year construction period with domestic companies like Hyundai and DongAh joining as subcontractors.
The government stepped up efforts to introduce the PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor) by sending a Request For Proposal to AECL of Canada as a follow up to its previous decision to a basic construction plan for the Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1.
The government decided to introduce the new system, as it can reduce costs for electricity generation, though it requires a 14 percent higher construction cost compared with a pressurized water reactor. As it uses natural uranium, the nation can secure stable supply channels from many friendly nations like Canada.
Additionally, KEPCO could acquire technology more easily from AECL with relatively less expense. With the beginning of commercial operations in April 1983, the nation came to possess both the Pressurized Water Reactor and Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor simultaneously.
Boosted by the construction of the Kori and Wolsung nuclear plants, KEPCO shifted the project methods from a turnkey method to a non-turnkey one, which means the power company will take the lead with other domestic and foreign concerns taking part as subcontractors in the areas of turbine generation, reactor facility supply, nuclear fuel supply and construction.
KEPCO began a project to enlarge the size of the nuclear reactors to a more than 950,000 KW level at the Kori 3 and 4 reactors in a bid to raise the portion of domestic prosecution and technology improvement. The efforts also came as a bid to cope with the expanding economic size of the nation.
The government sought the construction of OPR1000 (Optimized Power Reactor 1000) as the nation's standard nuclear plant, on the heels of the successful construction of the Younggwang 3 and 4 plants, through which it accounted for 95 percent of domestic production.
The Ulchin Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4 feature a standardization of the whole process with the exception of certain parts. Based on the technology poured into the Ulchin plants, the nation could give birth to the Ulchin 5 and 6 plants and the Yonggwang 5 and 6 plants. It is now speeding up efforts to develop an improved version of the OPR1000 nuclear plants with the aim of completing the construction of the Shin-Kori 1 and 2 plants in December 2011, and the Shin-Wolsung 1 and 2 plants in March 2012 and October 2013, respectively.
Future plans for the construction of nuclear plants
The Basic Plan of Long-Term Electricity Supply & Demand, which was announced in December 2006, features details for the construction of the Shin-Kori Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2, the Shin-Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2 and the Shin-Kori Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4. The nation is also taking steps to build the Shin-Ulchin Nuclear Power Plant Units 1 and 2 with completion expected by December 2015 and December 2016, respectively.
As of the end of 2007, the nuclear plants account for 26.6 percent and 36.5 percent in terms of installed capacity and generation capacity, respectively. But, given the recently soaring price of oil and climate change accords, international and local experts call on the nation to raise the portion of the nuclear plants. Accordingly, the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) Co. is calling on the government to raise the portion of the nuclear power plants through the Plan of Long-Term Electricity Supply & Demand, which will be recognized in 2008.
In addition, the KHNP is now gearing up its efforts to expedite the advancement of the Korean Standard OPR1000 and APR1400 technologies into overseas markets like China, Southeast Asia, Turkey and Romania. It believes the nations will be able to learn from the KHNP about the technology and knowhow accumulated over the last four decades.
Since having introduced nuclear plants in the middle of 1960, Korea now possesses 20 nuclear plants and is building another 20. Now, nuclear plants account for 36 percent of total electricity generation, which made the nation the world's No. 6 in that category. This is remarkable given that the nation had only $67 of per-capita GNP in 1953. Until the early 1960s, the nation was one of the poorest in the world.
The five-year economic plan provided the momentum for the nation to leap forward as an economic power. The per-capita GNP increased to $1,000 in 1977 and $10,000 in 1995. It surpassed $20,000 in 2007. In the process of the economic development, the nuclear power industry has made a great contribution. For instance, commodities prices rose 207.6 percent since 1982, but electricity prices grew a mere 5.5 percent during the same period. Construction of nuclear plants stopped in the early 1980s in the wake of accidents in the United States and Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. But the government has been pushing for the construction of new plants in accordance with its policies to cope with the possible shortage of energy and resources.
Though the nation depended on foreign technology in the initial stage of introducing nuclear power to Korea, it is now initiating the development of its own technology and the construction of plants based on experience and technology accumulated over the past four decades. It began the systematic education from the middle of the 1980s to secure excellent human resources. As a result, the nation built the Korean standard OPR1000. It now stands a chance to take the lead in various nuclear power projects. This is very significant given the advent of a nuclear renaissance with the growing need for nuclear energy amid surging oil prices, a dwindling supply of fossil fuels and the effectuation of climate change accords.
Nuclear power was the optimal choice for a nation devoid of energy resources. The global energy crisis, which began with the first oil shock in the early 1970s, has begun to turn into an energy resources war, prompting the need for the nation to press ahead with polices promoting nuclear power for the sake of energy security. nw

Lee Woo-bang, senior vice president of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co.

Shin-Kori Nuclear Power Units 1&2, now under construction

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