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South Korea approves $7bn nuclear project

Two new plants will be built to increase the country's energy capacity and prevent shortages.

Last updated: 29 Jan 2014 06:41
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South Korea is increasingly dependent on nuclear power with plans for more power plants in the future. [EPA]

South Korea has approved funding for two new nuclear plants to boost its nuclear power industry struggling to emerge from the shadow of Japan's Fukushima disaster. 

The project costing  $7bn was approved on Wednesday, only two weeks after Asia's fourth-largest economy announced a policy shift to cut its reliance on nuclear power in the wake of radiation cleanup conerns in Japan.

South Korea still plans to double its nuclear capacity over the next two decades as its state-run industry builds at least 16 new domestic reactors and pushes for overseas sales.

The plants are due to be completed by the end of 2020.

The new decision also comes after a series of nuclear reactor shutdowns due to safety issues, which raised the risk of blackouts during times of peak demand, and put pressure on policy makers to maintain power supplies for its energy intensive industries.

In May 2013, a scandal broke over parts supplied using fake documents, resulting in closures of some reactors to replace these parts.

Then on Wednesday, South Korea shut down another nuclear power plant due to a technical glitch, taking the number of reactors closed to four and increasing the risk of power shortages over winter.

South Korea, which ranks fifth globally in nuclear power generation, has largely developed its own nuclear industry with 23 nuclear reactors built and operated through state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO).

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