Reactor safety record inexcusable

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Reactor safety record inexcusable

During its recent check-up, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission discovered substandard parts were widely used in nuclear reactors across the nation. Some control cables and safety devices - which send warning electronic signals in case of radiation leaks or other accidents - at four new reactors at the Gori compound in Busan and two new ones in Wolseong, North Gyeongsang, did not meet quality standards and carried fake certificates.

Major accidents could have occurred in the event of a mechanical failure in the safety control system. Worse, the questionable cables have been widely supplied to operating reactors and those under renovation or construction. They are ticking time bombs in nuclear facilities across the nation.

The substandard parts passed tests by a local institution through forgery. The police also acted as accomplices in crime instead of catching the criminal. All the promises and efforts by authorities since last year to heighten safety standards have gone for naught. If not for whistle-blowing about fake warranties in April, authorities may never have known. The government and law enforcement authorities must find those accountable and take strong action. Upon receiving the report, President Park Geun-hye ordered thorough investigations and preventive steps.

The nuclear power industry has long been plagued with scandals. Last year, a number of staff members at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation were fired for taking bribes to turn their backs on supplies of substandard parts. The Board of Audit and Inspection discovered as many as 1,555 defective parts with faked documentation from the Gori and Yeonggwang reactor compounds.

The nuclear safety commission said a total of 13,794 parts in 561 categories have been supplied with faked quality certificates over the past 10 years. With such poor safety awareness and scrutiny, how can authorities persuade residents and activists who oppose construction of more reactors that nuclear electricity is safe?

The government must first investigate the supply network for Korea’s 23 reactors to ease public concern. It should also include more outside experts in testing procedures that are currently led entirely by the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation. Makeshift measures would only result in a stronger backlash. How long do we have to worry about power shortages and blackouts every summer and winter?

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