Nuclear warning bell

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Nuclear warning bell

The nuclear power plants located in Gori, Busan, and Yeonggwang, South Jeolla, turned out to have been supplied with knockoff components for their reactors. Procurement personnel at the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company, the operator of all nuclear power plants in Korea, reportedly gave authentic components made by foreign companies to a domestic parts supplier, and the supplier provided the power company with components it illegally copied from the real McCoys.

The part in question - a unit used to seal a neutron detector in the reactor - plays a pivotal function in detecting signs of trouble at a nuclear plant. But the power company came up with an utterly lame excuse. It said that there was no problem with the safety of the components because they are produced by local suppliers and have passed various tests. The company also attempted to make it sound like the shameful case was a single individual’s corruption.

Such an attitude, however, only furthers people’s distrust in our nuclear facilities. The company’s argument that there is no problem in terms of performance and safety despite internal corruption being exposed shows a serious apathy and insensitivity about the critical issue of safety.

Before the most recent irregularities were discovered, the Gori Nuclear Power Plant was resupplied with used parts for turbine valve actuators, and the Yeonggwang Nuclear Power Plant, too, was involved in a corruption case involving materials for cold insulators. Those cases raise a strong suspicion of widespread malpractices in the procurement of components for our nuclear power industry. No one knows where or when a serious crisis could start in an industry that seems to be awash with defective components and managers who receive kickbacks to buy them.

The government and the power company must sternly deal with the situation way beyond the mere punishing of problematic employees involved in the scams. First of all, they must eliminate the root cause of the corruption with component supplies through a thorough investigation. At the same time, the government, in particular, should improve parts procurement procedures and come up with a strict system to monitor employees.

Nuclear accidents result in irrevocable calamities. That’s why corruption, or even mistakes, are not allowed across the globe. The government and the power company must wake up to the grave warning sign about our nuclear safety.
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