Amid the implementation of the Moon Jae-in government's nuclear phase-out policy, the nuclear power usage fell to its lowest level in 37 years last year. It is expected that the utilization rate of nuclear power plants will rebound sharply this year as electricity production is resumed after safety maintenance.
According to the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. tally on Feb. 6, the utilization rate of nuclear power plants in 2018 was 65.9 percent. This is the lowest since 56.3 percent in 1981. Utilization rate refers to a concept similar to operational rate as the ratio of actual generation to the maximum available power generation per year.
The utilization rate was 46.3 percent in 1978 when Korea operated Gori No. 1, the first nuclear power plant in Korea. In the 1980s when Korea lacked experiences in operating nuclear power plants, the ratio stood at 60 to 70 percent, but rose to the 80 percent level in the 1990s. Recently, it has been decreasing for three years from 85.3% in 2015 to 79.7% in 2016, 71.2% in 2017, and further to 65.9% in 2018.
The reason behind the fall in the utilization rate of nuclear power plants is because problems such as concrete pores and corrosion of steel plates have been discovered. There was a nuclear power plant that the periodically planned preventive maintenance lasted for more than a year, far exceeding the usually two months.
However, as the number of preventive maintenance days has decreased this year, experts say that the utilization rate of nuclear power plants will also recover to the level of previous years.