Arrest made over fake reactor parts

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Arrest made over fake reactor parts

Amid a widening investigation to get to the bottom of a corruption scheme involving nuclear reactor parts suppliers, whose fabrication of test certificates of parts halted the operation of the country’s four nuclear reactors, the prosecution on Thursday arrested an employee at a test-run agency on charges of issuing fake test certificates.

The Busan Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office reported it arrested a 36-year-old inspection team worker, identified by his surname Kim, at evaluation agency Saehan Total Engineering Provider for faking the certificates.

The prosecutors said though Kim is not one of the three workers sued by state-run nuclear plant operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, they have detected irregularities single-handedly committed by Kim and decided to detain him for questioning.

The suspect is accused of issuing fake test certificates for control cables, which were then provided by JS Cable for reactors Singori 1 and 2 in Busan.

The prosecutors are now probing Kim to find out if he had colluded with other employees at his agency in issuing fake certificates for control cables.

The arrest came following a prosecutorial raid into a nuclear reactor parts supplier and an agency tasked with evaluating the quality of the parts.

A control cable is a key part of the safety mechanism of a nuclear reactor. When an accident happens, the cable is used to send a signal to the safety system.

If it fails to work at the time of an accident, nuclear fuel cooling and leak prevention functions of a reactor will not work properly.

Immediately following the finding on the faulty components installed, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission on Tuesday suspended the operation of two reactors - Singori 2 and Sinwolseong 1.

The move has frozen all four reactors because the operations of the other two were already halted.

Singori 1 was undergoing a routine check while Sinwolseong 2 was going through an operational evaluation that would take months. The two reactors were also found to have faulty control cables supplied under fabricated certificates and fake test-run results.

The shutdown of a series of reactors due to substandard control cable components puts 10 out of 23 nuclear reactors nationwide out of action, stoking fears that the country, which is heavily reliant on nuclear power responsible for one-third of Korea’s electricity demands, will experience an acute power shortage ahead of a high-energy demand season.

In response to a spate of malfunctions and corruption scandals that has marred the nuclear power industry, the Nuclear Safety Commission under the Prime Minister’s Office announced Saturday it will revise the current Nuclear Safeguard Act to hold more industry players, such as test-running agencies and quality-evaluating firms, accountable for safety regulations.

Under the current regulation law, only the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power is subject to safeguard inspection.

The push for revision follows a remark by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Friday, in which he said it is “an unpardonable crime” to commit irregularities over reactor parts supply.

Last year alone, the nuclear plant operator spent 1.37 trillion won ($1.21 billion) on nuclear plant parts maintenance and replacement work, and industry watchers have pointed out the nuclear plant sector has been left unsupervised for long.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Lee Seung-nyeong [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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