Fix our nuclear power plants

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Fix our nuclear power plants

People are forced to put up with an early heat
wave because nuclear operators have disrupted the
power supply with corruption. Investigative reports
by media and probes by prosecutors discovered
mafia-like connections in the nuclear reactor
industry. Revolving-door practices were rampant.
Three out of 10 senior employees who retired from
the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power,
which has a near monopoly on operating nuclear
plants, found high-paying jobs at nuclear reactorrelated
manufacturers after retirement. The enlarged
family formed a gang in the industry, collaborating
in forging documents and test results to supply substandard
parts for profit.
Behind the fake warranties and test results were
former workers of Kepco E&C, a certificate-issuing
arm of the Korea Electric Power Corporation, and
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. The industry said
they were hired for their expertise. But we would
not have seen fabrications and irregularities if they
were really experts. Instead, they are suspected of
acting as lobbyists and using influence to win supply
contracts. We cannot understand how authorities
endorsed certificates issued by private institutions
paid by the part suppliers. How can a lab conduct
a credible quality test when it is paid by the
parts supplier?
The nuclear power industry has been dominated
by engineers and researchers from Seoul National
University and the Korea Advanced Institute
of Science and Technology. The exclusive alumni
formed their own empire within the government
and state-run nuclear institutions like Korea Hydro
& Nuclear Power and Kepco. They dominated the
trade from reactor design and construction to testing
and supervision.
An elite and exclusive interest group can easily
be contaminated with corruption. The close connections
must be cut off to end their dominance and
abuses in the industry. An independent supervisory
system — possibly from overseas — is needed.
The people are tired and enraged with the scandals
and corruption in the nuclear industry. President
Park Geun-hye promised to root out corruptive
connections as scandals cannot be forgiven for
putting lives and comfort at risk. Politicians are discussing
a bill to apply strong punitive measures
such as seizure of assets belonging to people and
companies involved in the nuclear scams.
Three nuclear reactors have been turned off because
of their wrongdoing. The country will have to
pay an extra 1 trillion won ($895.2 billion) to run
LNG-based reactors to make up for the power loss.
If the power shortage leads to a blackout, the industrial
damage could be astronomical. Nuclear reactor
corruption is no simple crime as it can shake the
foundation of the country. We must ensure that a
strict investigation takes place and that those responsible
are punished sternly. No one should dare
repeat the corrupt acts in the future.

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