South to open reactors to scrutiny

AFP-JIJI

South Korea unveiled Tuesday plans to open all its 23 nuclear reactors to international inspection in a bid to allay growing public concern over nuclear safety.

The government will start taking bids on Wednesday from international organizations capable of carrying out such a national survey, with a winner to be announced on May 3, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

The ministry in January had promised nuclear sector reforms after a series of malfunctions, shutdowns and corruption scandals further undermined public confidence already shaken by the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The 10-week inspection will look into the safety of all 23 reactors currently in operation and evaluate maintenance procedures at eight sample reactors, the ministry said.

A survey commissioned by the ministry and published in November showed only 35 percent of South Koreans considered nuclear power to be safe, sharply down from 71 percent in January 2010. The government has vowed to stick with its nuclear power program and plans to build an additional 16 reactors by 2030.