German team gives nod to Korea’s nuclear plants

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German team gives nod to Korea’s nuclear plants

A German consulting firm has concluded that Korea’s nuclear power plants largely comply with international safety standards but noted that room for improvement still exists.

“The international testing agency said that the operation and management of nuclear reactors meet the general level of rules and standards,” said the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) in a statement.

The commission hired the Munich-based TUV SUD to do the evaluation after it was found that some of Korea’s nuclear reactors had used substandard parts with forged quality certificates.

In its study, the German company identified 35 minor problems and made 145 suggestions for further improvements.

The technical service company said it found some practices that deviated from the proper operation of nuclear power plants but not so seriously that they would not pose an imminent threat to safety.

One of the issues was the way motor drive mechanisms were tested.

According to TUV SUD, when a glitch is detected in a motor system, the nuclear power plant technicians should check whether all the buttons and switches attached to the system function properly. It was questionable whether Korean workers followed that procedure.

Inspectors also raised concerns about inspections being done in the plants without ladders. Apparently the Korean technicians were climbing on top of the equipment in lieu of using ladders.

“Despite the obviously large number of findings and recommendations, the in-depth assessment of these ascertainments did not point to direct relevance to nuclear safety of the inspected nuclear power plants,” the German testing company was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

“Nevertheless they should be considered as necessary to improve the operational safety significantly according to the concerned standards or international best practices,” it added.

The NSSC will ask Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) to come up with plans to effectively incorporate the suggestions into the workings of the plants.

The German team, consisting of 25 inspectors, praised the KHNP training center in which employees can learn about nuclear power plant equipment using life-sized models.

A spate of technical disruptions and revelations of corruption in the nuclear power industry have dented public confidence in the system.



BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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