In a past blog post about fraud in the global nuclear industry, I mentioned a problem that had been revealed in South Korea in 2012. I am going to expand on South Korean nuclear industry misbehavior in this blog post.
In 2012, two reactors at the Yonggwang Nuclear Power Plant in S. K. were shut down because it was discovered that quality certificates had been forged for some parts. The parts in question were things like fuses and power switches that didn't pose a threat of radiation release. Eight suppliers had sold Korean Hydro & Nuclear Power Company almost eight thousand questionable parts for around seven hundred thousand dollars. These two power plants supplied about five percent of the electricity for S. K. and their loss put a strain on the national power supply system.
Investigation of fraudulent documentation continued and six reactors were shut down in 2013. Over 100 people were indicted in the corruption scandal. The South Korean nuclear industry is very closed and secrective which prosecutors said bred a culture of corrupt practices. Two high ranking executives at nuclear power companies were charged with bribery. The six closed reactors had the uncertified parts replaced and were brought back into service. In spite of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and the parts scandal, S.K. remained committed to nuclear power.
In 2014, the investigations were continued and expanded. Previously domestic nuclear plant parts were the focus of the investigations but then parts supplied by foreign manufacturers came under scrutiny. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission decided to check all parts manufactured overseas and supplied to S.K. nuclear power plants from 2008 to the present. A total of two hundred thousand parts from the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Germany and other countries, along with their safety documentation were targeted for investigated.
Nuclear power provides about a third of the electricity for S.K. Even with the expanding investigations into fraudulent documentation from domestic and foreign suppliers, S.K. continued to support nuclear power and stood by plans to build at least sixteen new reactors in the next twenty years. In addition to the domestic projects, S.K. intends to export nuclear technology to other countries.
I have spent a lot of time in this blog on concerns that the companies which build and operate nuclear reactors for power generation cannot be trusted to follow regulations and safe practices in the construction and operation of their power plants. I have also pointed out that regulatory agencies are often underfunded and incompetent. Some have been "captured" by their nuclear industries and actually aid nuclear power companies who seek to evade regulation and oversight. The S.K. situation is not unique. How many nuclear parts manufacturers have evaded proper certification for their parts that are being sold to nuclear power companies? In Japan, less than half of the parts being exported to the global nuclear industry have been properly inspected. Even if the nuclear regulatory agencies and the nuclear power companies act ethically and competently, the world is still be endangered by unethical behavior of companies manufacturing nuclear components.