S. Korea to restart nuclear reactor after maintenance; six still offline

SEOUL - South Korea's nuclear safety regulator said it has approved the restart of one of the country's 23 nuclear reactors after a two-month maintenance shutdown, while six others remain offline.

Asia's fourth-largest economy faces severe power shortages this winter and next summer due to nuclear plants that have been shut amid a safety scandal that started late last year.

The scheduled maintenance check had "confirmed the reactor's and related facilities' performance and operation technology had met required levels," said a statement from Nuclear Safety & Security Commission on Wednesday.

Six other reactors remain offline, including three shut since May to replace cables supplied with fake documents, another awaiting approval for an extension on its 30-year life-span, and a fifth shut for scheduled maintenance, according to the KHNP web site (www.khnp.co.kr).

A sixth reactor was closed on Wednesday to check welding work related to the safety of a steam generator.

With the commission's approval, Hanbit No. 1 in Yeonggwang county, 250 km (155 miles) southwest of Seoul, will restart on Friday or Saturday, a source from Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) said.

KHNP, fully owned by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), operates South Korea's nuclear reactors, which supply about a third of the country's power.

South Korea is under pressure to reduce its reliance on nuclear power generation due to the safety scandal that led to the indictment of 100 people for corruption.

Some activists' worries have also been heightened by the continuing Fukushima nuclear crisis in neighbouring Japan.