IAEA says Gori-1’s ‘safety culture’ needs boosting

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IAEA says Gori-1’s ‘safety culture’ needs boosting

After completing an eight-day inspection of the Gori-1 reactor Busan, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded yesterday that the overall condition of plant, including an emergency backup power system that failed in February, has improved over the past months.

The agency, however, suggested the state-run operator make more robust the safety culture at the country’s oldest reactor.

“The mission identified good plant conditions and programs,” the IAEA said in a statement yesterday. “Detailed visits of the plant confirmed the good condition of equipment, including equipment involved in the blackout, which has since been improved.”

On Feb. 9, outside electricity needed to keep the reactor cool was cut off by mistake during a routine safety check. The reactor went powerless for more than 10 minutes, which led to temporary shutdown of vital functions, including the cooling of spent fuel. A diesel emergency power generator failed. The operator tried to conceal the blackout for more than a month.

The IAEA also said that the operator “has implemented several equipment replacements and upgrades to allow continued safe operation” and “has been actively implementing a program to manage the plant’s aging.”

The IAEA noted that the operator has analyzed the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and “implementation of a broad scope of safety improvements is in progress.”

The inspection of the country’s oldest reactor took place at the request of the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. following the blackout at the station on February 9.

The review by the United Nations agency followed the methodology of the agency’s operational safety review missions and covered management, organization and administration, operations, maintenance and operating experience. The team was led by Miroslav Lipar, the head of the IAEA’s division of nuclear installation safety, and was comprised of experts from countries including Belgium, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The review began on June 4.

Prior to the IAEA inspection, Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission had completed an interim investigation and identified why the emergency diesel generator did not work, saying a flaw in the generator’s pressure valve failed to provide air.

“The Commission identified corrective actions for the plant concerning reinforcing safety culture, emergency diesel generator reliability, configuration control and risk management during refueling outages,” the IAEA said. Its mission acknowledged that some corrective actions have already been completed and others are in progress.

The IAEA, however, did note some shortcomings in the safety culture of the nuclear plant that led to an “inability to counter the errors in handling a station blackout event and subsequent leadership failures in communication and reporting.”

Civic groups and nearby residents, who have agitated to close the old reactor to guarantee safety, responded to the IAEA’s announcement saying, “The results of the safety inspection are hard to believe.” They continued, “Gori-1 shouldn’t resume its operations based on the inspection results.”

Members of civic groups including the No Nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission held a press conference yesterday in front of the reactor and urged the IAEA safety inspection to be “nullified.”

“The aim of the IAEA is to boost the nuclear industry,” the civic groups said.
By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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