Two earthquakes that jolted South Korea on Monday night, including the largest ever recorded in the country, prompted concerns about the safety of nuclear plants clustered in the quake-prone southeast.
Korea’s Meteorological Agency said the two earthquakes, of magnitude of 5.1 and 5.8, occurred near the city of Gyeongju. They could be felt in the capital Seoul, over 300 km (186 miles) to the northwest.
Fourteen people were injured but there were no reports of serious damage, a Ministry of Public Safety and Security official said.
Nonetheless, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co shut down four nuclear reactors at the Wolsong complex in Gyeongju as a precaution.
South Korea’s 25 reactors supply about one-third of its electricity and make it the world’s fifth-largest user of nuclear power. It plans to add 9 more nuclear plants by 2027, according to the nuclear watchdog.
As in many countries, nuclear power is controversial in South Korea, especially after a 2012 scandal over parts being supplied with fake certificates prompted shutdowns.
Park Jong-kwon, head of an anti-nuclear civic group in South Gyeongsang Province, said no more nuclear reactors should be built in southeastern cities like Ulsan and Gyeongju as they are close to an active fault line.
About 70 percent of South Korea’s nuclear reactors are in the southeast, partly to locate them further away from North Korea, with which the country remains technically at war.
Greenpeace Korea filed a lawsuit against the nuclear watchdog on Monday, before the earthquakes, urging it to scrap a plan to add two more reactors in Ulsan.