Potential nuclear risk
Radiation leak from Gori reactor could claim 900,000 lives
By Yi Whan-woo
A radiation leak from a reactor at the Gori nuclear power plant near Busan could kill 900,000 people, and cause 628 trillion won in damages, anti-nuclear groups claimed Monday.
The Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM) and the No Nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission backed up their claim with a simulation to predict the outcome of a nuclear accident at the Gori No. 1 reactor that has questions raised over its safety.
The simulation results show that 48,000 residents will die shortly after a leak from intense radiation, while 850,000 others over time will develop diseases such as cancer.
The report’s findings concluded that immediate evacuation is the best way to reduce loss of life. However, economic loss from this will be enormous.
“We may be able to reduce the death rate down to 5 percent from 43 percent if Busan citizens evacuate within 15 days of the accident,” said Yangyi Wonyoung, a director of KFEM. “On the other hand, the cost of an evacuation will be up to 628 trillion won supposing that all of the city residents safely escape hazardous areas.”
Yangyi said additional costs to get the nuclear facilities back to normal will be “more than one can imagine.”
“Costs for removal of radioactive elements, water contamination and nuclear wastes would require tremendous amounts of finance and labor.”
The Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), a state-run company that oversees the plant, could only mobilize 50 billion won in compensation for possible human losses and property damage, a member of the No Nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission pointed out.
“According to our research, the KNHP can make compensation payments of up to 50 billion won under insurance coverage, which means the government would have to take the take burden of the rest of the damage.”
A KHNP official said the simulation was made under the assumption of extreme circumstances and that the findings should be closely examined.
“The results assume that there are no safety walls around the reactors,” said Park Suk-hyun, a senior manager at the emergency management office of the KHNP.
“The study models are also based on the reactors from Chernobyl and Fukushima and I can guarantee the Gori No. 1 reactor is safer than those two.”
The anti-nuclear activists conducted the simulation in the wake of rising awareness of the nuclear safety.
Yangyi said the Fukushima disaster Japan motivated them to run the simulation. She also added that failed safety measures at the Gori No. 1 reactor were also a factor.
The 33-year-old reactor was temporary shutdown in 2011 after a circuit-breaker burned out because of an electricity glitch. The activists called for a shutdown of the country’s oldest reactor while the KHNP decided to run the facility.
“I just couldn’t understand why the company is willing to take the risk of running such old facility that runs the high possibility of having a nuclear accident,” Yangyi said.
“By looking at the number of the estimated deaths and economic damage, I hope our people can learn how high the risks are for nuclear power. I can’t stress this enough.”