Supplier raided over nuke parts

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Supplier raided over nuke parts

The prosecution yesterday raided a nuclear reactor parts supplier and an agency tasked with evaluating the quality of the parts to look into their alleged involvement in providing substandard components under fake certificates to local nuclear power reactors.

The Busan Eastern District Public Prosecutors’ Office dispatched 40 investigation officials to search the office of JS Cable in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, and Saehan Total Engineering Provider in Anyang, Gyeonggi, collecting internal reports and documents.

The legal enforcement agency also raided the residences of two top officials of the suspected companies.

The move came three days after the government’s decision to suspend the operation of two nuclear reactors - one in Busan and the other in Wolseong County, Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang - following a whistle-blower’s revelation that the control cables had forged warranties.

The scheduled operations of two other reactors were postponed for the same reason.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission on Wednesday lodged a complaint with the prosecution against the two suspected firms and three other former and incumbent officials.

The latest shutdown deals a huge blow to Korea’s nuclear power sector that is already marred by a spate of malfunctions and corruption scandals.

The temporary halt poses a palpable threat of energy shortages ahead of the energy-demanding summer season.

Each reactor, with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts, would remain closed for about four months. The nation is heavily reliant on nuclear power, which is responsible for one-third of the country’s electricity demands.

In line with efforts to prevent potential wrongdoings from going unnoticed, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office yesterday launched a task force to look into whether other agencies have forged the safety certificates of parts used in nuclear reactors.

“We won’t limit the investigation to the pending case,” said a source of the prosecution office who wishes to remain anonymous because the probe is ongoing.

“We are widening the investigation to find the cases of other potential corruption scandals and recruitment as well as parts issues,” the source said.

“Even if the case is an old one, we are committed to digging into it as long as the statute of limitations has not run out.”

The members of the special investigation unit consist of seven veteran prosecutors with knowledge of the nuclear power industry and 12 inspectors, according to the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office.

Busan’s prosecution leads the probe into the nuclear power-related agencies and firms given their previous experience of charging seven people in connection with the provision of substandard components since 2011.

Last year, Korea saw two reactors face forced closure when thousands of problematic parts had been supplied with falsified warranties for over 10 years. The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, the state-run operator of local nuclear power plants, also vowed to cooperate to enact tougher measures against those involved in the fraudulent parts scandal.


By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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