South Korea’s nuclear power regulator the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said it would expand the investigation into a Hanbit power plant incident earlier this month in which the reactor was allowed to run after breaching security parameters.
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) was running tests to ascertain control rod effectiveness, according to media sources. However, the control rods were being operated by a staff member who was not licensed to do so. In addition, the reactor’s power surged during the test, rising 18 percent in less than a minute. The protocol calls for a manual shutdown if the power surges 5 percent or more. KHNP later said the plant was set for an automatic shutdown for a surge of 25 percent.
After the incident, which occurred May 10, KHNP brought in experts from the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety who advised that the plant be shut down, warning KHNP that the plant was not in compliance. KHNP then shut the plant down 11 and a half hours after the surge occurred.
NSSC now says has sent a special judicial police officer along with monitors to the plant. This has widely been interpreted as a possible move prior to a physical arrest of one or more of the staff at the plant. The supervisor, the head of power generation, some reports say, was negligent in instructing staff on how the tests would be done.
“Since the thermal output rose so suddenly, we’ll also have to check the integrity of the nuclear fuel,” said an NSSC official, who also said, “after thoroughly ensuring that the nuclear rods and nuclear fuel are both safe, we’ll take action related to nuclear power legislation,” a hint that arrests were possible.
Hanbit Unit 1 is a 950 MWe pressurized water reactor in the Jeollanam province, one of 24 domestic nuclear power reactors in operation in South Korea.
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