S.Korea unveils power plan after nuclear closures risk blackouts

SEOUL Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:39am IST

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SEOUL Nov 16 (Reuters) - South Korea aims to secure more than 4,000 megawatts (MW) of extra power capacity over demand through savings and new plants to head off potential blackouts, after the closure of nuclear plants means reserve excess capacity in January would be less than a third of the normal target.

The nuclear problems have increased the risk of power shortages in the harsh Korean winter after the closure of two reactors to replace parts with fake quality documents and an extended shutdown of another reactor where microscopic cracks were found.

The northeast Asian country is heavily dependent on oil, gas and coal imports, but usually supplies about a third of its electricity from nuclear power generation from its 23 reactors.

Under the plan, an additional 1,270 MW of power capacity would come from private and public power generators, a statement from the economy ministry said on Friday.

A further 3,000 MW is targeted from power savings including less heating at firms and public places, the statement said.

Without such efforts, South Korea's excess power generating capacity over projected demand in January is forecast at 1,270 MW, or 28 percent of the safety margin that the government aims for to guarantee supplies, the statement said.

With little spare capacity, the grid would be vulnerable to power outages.

"We are facing very tough situation...It is important that no more power plant have outages from now on," said an economy ministry source, declining to be named.

Asia's fourth-largest economy would have to conduct rotating blackouts in the public sector if excess power generating capacity falls below 2,000 MW, the ministry statement added.

The economy ministry statement said that shortage of power supply was expected to improve from 2014 as a combined7,000-MW power plants would be added to a total of more than 80,000 MW of power generating capacity by the end of 2013. (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Additional reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Ed Davies)

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