SEOUL – South Korea withdrew on Monday one of its nuclear reactors for the first time in its history as part of a government plan to end the country’s nuclear dependence.
Reactor 1 of the Kori plant, which has been operational for the last 40 years, was shut down at midday, confirmed the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in a brief statement.
Authorities officially declared the closure after the temperature of the reactor core, which had already been disconnected Saturday, fell below 90 degrees Celsius (194F).
The South Korean government is now to manage the dismantling process, which is expected to take about 20 years.
The Kori reactor 1, a unit of pressurized water reactor with the capacity to generate 587 megawatts, was the oldest in the country since it began commercial operations on April 29, 1978.
Although the operator, the state-owned Korea Electric Power, decided in June 2016 to not request the extension of the useful life of the reactor due to the question of economic viability, the closing of the unit came after the newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, promised to end nuclear dependence.
Moon, who took office on May 10 and promised to stop the construction of two new reactors in Kori, said on Monday that in order to improve the security of South Koreans, his government would not authorize the installation of any more reactors in the country or allow the extension of the useful life of any of those already in operation.
During the speech at the reactor’s closing ceremony, Moon, who recalled the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, said South Korea was to move towards a nuclear-free era.
The president, who has also pledged to close a dozen thermoelectric plants during his tenure, pledged that by 2030 the country will obtain 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
With the closure of Kori-1, South Korea currently has 24 operating nuclear reactors with a capacity to generate more than 23,000 megawatts in total.
Currently, the country gets 21 percent of its electricity from nuclear fission.