Making a mess of nuclear safety

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Making a mess of nuclear safety


Adding to the long list of scandals and mishaps in the nuclear reactor business, there was a serious security leak in 2012 and last year at two of the country’s plants. According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, the security codes and passwords of 19 staff at the state-run Hanbit and Gori nuclear power stations were leaked to subcontractors.

The ministry conducted security checks on power stations across the nation following online media reports about the leak in September. It found that staff shared their log-in IDs and passwords for the internal computer system with subcontracted employees of radioactive waste management companies. Night shift staff should have escorted these people from outside during their work, but instead they gave their security codes away simply because they were lazy.

Subcontracted maintenance workers went into the computer system of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., the state operator of nuclear reactors, and approved themselves for assigned jobs to dispose of radioactive waste on the premise of the reactor. One subcontracted employee stored data on an unlicensed USB. Food delivery people also entered sealed security areas near the nuclear reactor without staff accompanying them. About 77 percent of the CCTVs installed at the reactor did not work. Security at nuclear power stations is a complete mess.

Nuclear power stations are a huge national security concern because of the apocalyptic consequences if they come under terrorist or other military attacks. They require stricter security and more vigilant safety management than other public facilities. But what the government investigation exposed was beyond excuse. The ministry and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power were not aware of the lax security and carelessness until the news report. In its security evaluation of the state nuclear reactor operator, the National Intelligence Service gave it a top score this year and last year.

Since Greenpeace activists broke into the Fessenheim, the oldest reactor in France, to hang anti-nuclear banners March, the French government has been on a maximum security alert at its plants. Korean nuclear plants could be exposed to break-ins and other dangers if security is not enhanced. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power should double its night-shift workers and strengthen its electronic security system. In addition to reinforcing manpower and the security system, staff should be trained to be more responsible for nuclear security and safety.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 4, Page 34
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