The NSSC will “continue its evaluation after its design fatigue life is terminated.”
The evaluation process for extending the lifespan (continued operation) of Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant is expected to continue through next year.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC, Chairman: Kang Chang-sun) said on November 12 that it will continue its evaluation of continued operation of the Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong when its operation is suspended after the design fatigue life is terminated.”
Given the pace of its evaluation process, the extension of its lifespan is expected to be decided in the first half of 2013 at the earliest.
Having received the application for continued operation of the reactor from Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) on December 30, 2009, the NSSC has been evaluating it through the Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS), its subordinate organization.
Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong, which started its commercial operations on April 22, 1983, now stands at the crossroads where it will be decommissioned or be approved for continued operation for another 10 years, as its design fatigue life (30 years) will be terminated on November 20 this year.
According to the current atomic energy-related law, the evaluation of a reactor’s continued operation by the NSSC is regulated to be completed within 18 months from the date when it receives an application. But the period spent for supplementing documents and testing to identify safety is ruled to be excluded from the period of evaluation.
In case of Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong, the NSSC explains that it has been about 34 months since it received the application, but it spent about 12 months evaluatingsince it spent approximately 22 months for supplementing documents and identifying safety.
If the NSSC’s explanation is true, the final decision on the extension of Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong’s lifespan is very likely to be delayed for over 6 months.
The operation of Reactor No. 1 at Wolsong is suspended to conduct overall repair due to troubles in its chilled water system that emerged on October 29.
So, it is not clear whether this reactor will resume operation before November 20, the day when its design fatigue life is terminated, and it is meaningless even though it is repaired within several days as its operation period will be less than a week.
It is hard to make any predictions on whether the NSSC will approve its extension of the reactor’s lifespan.
The KHNP believes that minimum criteria for extension of lifespan are satisfied as major facilities and equipments are largely replaced, while civic groups show concerns over their inability to guarantee safety due to obsolete facilities as shown in the frequent troubles in recent weeks.
The NSSC takes on a prudent attitude saying, “Technological problems are not solved yet because manifoldness in the emergency reactor core chilling system is found to be unresolved in the process of evaluation by the KINS.”
But some observers point out that it is difficult to see the SSNC’s evaluation for an extending lifespan is assessment of face value of the reactor’s present status as it conducts evaluation mainly based on the application filed by the KHNP and asks to submit supplementary documents in case any items do not meet the criteria.
An official at the NSSC said, “The commission will meticulously identify safety by conducting thorough evaluation with sufficient time regardless of design fatigue life’s termination. It will also hold a public forum, when necessary, to clearly disclose processes of evaluating the possibility of continued operation.”