The controversy erupted when the Wolseong Nuclear Power Headquarters of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) began withdrawing nuclear fuel and recovering heavy water from the Wolseong No. 1 reactor, which was decided to shut down early.
According to the Yeongnamilbo on Sept. 8, residents claimed that the nuclear safety law requires residents to gather opinions to release nuclear fuel, a prior step of dismantling nuclear reactors.
On the other hand, KHNP refuted that the withdrawal of nuclear fuel is an act of operating the power plant and does not require opinions from residents.
KHNP started to withdraw nuclear fuel and recover heavy water from Sept. 3 in an effort to secure facility safety for Wolseong No. 1 reactor. Nuclear fuel withdrawal and heavy water recovery will be completed by January 31 next year.
The decision to shut down Wolseong No. 1 reactor was decided at a board meeting of KHNP in June last year when its operation was suspended on May 28 for maintenance.
"If fuel is inside the reactor, additional safety measures such as inspections of related facilities are required. However, if the fuel is extracted and stored in the fuel depository, it is easy to secure safety since the facility related to cooling of the tank can be centrally managed," said KHNP.
Although KHNP's board of directors decided to close the Wolseong No. 1 reactor early, the change in operation for permanent shutdown must be approved by the Nuclear Safety Commission.
As a result, KHNP plans to apply for permission to the original committee in June next year. KHNP is to submit the application for approval to dismantle the plant within five years from the date it was permanently shut down. In the process, the government should collect opinions from residents through public hearings.