Nuclear power summit calls for ‘safety culture’

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Nuclear power summit calls for ‘safety culture’


Nuclear industry leaders and representatives of international organizations pose during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit at the Grand Intercontinental hotel in Seoul. [NEWSIS]

Nuclear industry leaders participating in the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit yesterday issued a statement pledging the industry’s active role in integrating security and safety of nuclear energy in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant a year ago.

Over 200 leaders in the nuclear industry and representatives of 118 international organizations from 36 countries gathered in Seoul for the summit, which will conclude today.

The joint statement, which had nine points, is the result of four months of discussions by three working groups on three topics: reduction in the use of highly enriched uranium, securing sensitive information, and effectively linking nuclear security and safety in the post-Fukushima era.

The joint statement, which will be proposed at next week’s Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, calls for the international nuclear industry to switch the use of highly enriched uranium in reactors to low-enriched uranium fuel to reduce the threat of terrorists getting material that can be used in weapons.

It also stressed the need for enhancing the security culture in the industry by raising awareness among employees of security threats and fostering an open environment for reporting security concerns.

Industry leaders also agreed to openly share their best practices to secure sensitive nuclear information, including protection against cyber threats. They pledged to support the development of international safety standards and security recommendations set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit gave us an opportunity to confirm the importance of the industry’s role in nuclear security and to reaffirm our commitment to the role,” Kim Jong-shin, CEO of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, said at the press conference at the Grand Intercontinental hotel in Seoul. “We examined the private sector’s performances for the past two years since the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and discussed more practical measures that the nuclear industry should take in the future in order to enhance nuclear security.”

Adrian Paterson, CEO of the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organization, said while the industry is converting reactors and research facilities using highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium, making this happen will not be possible without governmental financial support.

“To replace highly enriched uranium, you have to create a fuel that has a very high density of low enriched uranium,” Paterson said. “There’s a very active program internationally, which includes colleagues from Korea, Europe and United States to produce high density fuels .?.?. but not sufficient progress has been made to replace highly enriched uranium. The new development program should be funded, and I think the chief funding should come from governments.”

Charles Pardee, chief operating officer of U.S.-based energy firm Exelon, said although the U.S. is divided over nuclear energy as the result of the Fukushima accident, he projected the U.S. government’s desire to reduce greenhouse gas production will eventually push the country back to nuclear energy. “While renewable resources such as wind power or solar power will become more substantial in the future, it’s clear to us that they’ll not be the way to supplement or replace base load generation unless there’s significant advances in energy storage devices,” Pardee said. “We don’t see those advances on our horizon any time soon. I think financially for the next decade or two, the United States will have some new nuclear construction largely focused on utilization of natural gas supplies we have to displace.”

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, who addressed the forum earlier in the day, said due to the technical and cost limits of renewable energy, pursuing peaceful and safe nuclear energy is the most realistic solution for the next 40 to 50 years. Korea currently runs 21 nuclear reactors, and seven more are under construction.

Meanwhile, when asked about his responsibility for the recent Gori-1 reactor blackout and the efforts of officials to cover it up, KHNP’s Kim said he will spread a culture of safety in the company and improve transparency.

By Kim Mi-ju []

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