South Korea extends reactor shutdown after 2 workers drown

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's nuclear operator said on Thursday it had been told to extend the shutdown of a nuclear reactor to improve safety after two workers drowned this week when the water level in a drain rose.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power was ordered by a local labour office to keep the plant closed until it had strengthened safety for workers after the deaths on Monday.

The 1,000MW Hanbit No. 5 reactor had already been closed for scheduled maintenance due to last from Dec 12 to Jan 19.

South Korea has been under pressure to ensure stable power supply due to a nuclear safety scandal which led to shutdowns of some nuclear reactors in a country where about a third of its electricity comes from nuclear power.

Ahead of peak winter demand this month, the nuclear regulator last week approved the restart of three reactors shut since last May to replace cables supplied with fake safety certificates.

Asia's fourth-largest economy has 23 nuclear power plants.

Of the 23, three are offline, including the Hanbit No. 5.

A second is awaiting an extension of its licence after its 30-year lifespan expired in November 2012 and another is shut for scheduled maintenance extended to mid-January to repair cracks found on the reactor head.

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