KWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – Kwangju archdiocese’s Committee for Justice and Peace says it wants to monitor one of the country’s largest nuclear power plants as scientists said radioactive particles had been found in the atmosphere over several areas of South Korea.

The committee announced on March 28 that it had sent a letter to Yonggwang nuclear power plant in Jeollanam-do province, requesting its cooperation in monitoring the safety of the plant, which is located in the archdiocesan area.

The letter said the committee would like to inspect the plant’s safety and accident history since its opening in 1978, the safety procedures manual for emergencies and the regular exercises to evacuate residents.

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety said recently that radioactive iodine has been detected in 12 areas including Seoul.

Reports claimed the particles of iodine-131 might have come from the Japanese nuclear power plant at Fukushima that was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The radioactive concentrations were being analysed but were probably too low to pose any threat to people’s health or the environment, the institute was reported as saying.

Authorities confirmed on March 28 that small concentrations of radioactive xenon-133 had also been found in South Korea’s northeast.

Mr Augustine Kim Yang-rae, vice president of the committee, said fear and concern among residents neighbouring the power plant have been increasing, so his committee resolved that monitoring of the plant is urgent during its meeting on March 15.

He said that their longer-term action plan will be drawn up in the light of the plant authorities’ cooperation in revealing safety information during their visit.

The Yonggwang plant, one of the largest nuclear plants in the country, has been operating six reactors since 1978.

The Kwangju Church committee led the protest against building the most recent four of the plant’s total of six reactors since 1992, during which priests of the committee were arrested and brought to trial.

Korea, the world’s sixth largest nuclear power producer, is now operating 21 nuclear power plants commercially.


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