South Korea indicts 100 people over safety scandals
South Korea has indicted 100 people of corruption and forgery in the scandal over fake safety certifications for parts in its nuclear reactors, authorities said on October 3. The people are from Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co (KHNP − which operates the nation's 23 nuclear reactors), from parts suppliers, and from certifiers. A vice president at Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and a former KHNP chief executive face bribery charges.
The scandal broke last November after the country's energy ministry ordered the shutdown of two reactors after admissions that eight unnamed firms that supplied parts had faked certificates covering thousands of nuclear power components from 2003 to 2012, affecting at least five reactors. Then in May, it was revealed that four other reactors had components (safety-related control cabling) with forged documentation, prompting the shut down of two reactors for about four months for replacements. Currently, six of the country's 23 reactors are off-line either because of the scandal or scheduled outages.
According to the government's policy coordination ministry, 277 out of 22,000 documents of tests on components at 20 reactors were found to be forged. Of 218,000 documents examined for a further eight units, including five under construction, a total of 2,010 were found to be falsified.
The scandal continues to widen. On October 16, KHNP revealed that control cables at two reactors under construction − Shin Kori 3 and 4 − failed a re-evaluation. Completion of these reactors has been put back by 6−12 months.
Park Young-June, a former deputy minister in charge of energy, has been charged with accepting 50 million won (US$45,000) bribes in 2010 in return for favouring a constructor bidding for a nuclear reactor contract. He is also charged with taking money from Kim Jong-Shin, the one-time chief of KHNP.
In late September, new KHNP chief executive Cho Seok issued a public apology. "Our domestic nuclear project is facing the utmost crisis," he said, adding that public trust had "hit the ground" because of Fukushima and the corruption issues in Korea.
The Atomic Power Review website provides a useful summary of recent events:
"In terms of "will parts with faked certificates actually work," the answer appears in at least one case to be "no," and "do parts supplied under these bribery-induced contracts meet specs," the answer also appears to be "no." Much else has developed in the interim. Let's detail developments in recent times, since it was announced that about 100 people had been indicted overall in the scandal ...
- In early October, it was found that eight nuclear cable suppliers were price fixing; a fine was imposed and a case referred to prosecutors.
- The cable makers were found to have been paying very high dividends − and it was noted that the fine amount was insignificant to deter the practice when compared with the profit derived from a successful bid.
- A large number of faked testing results were discovered in connection with investigation into the corruption scandal, including 277 used to cover parts at operating plants.
- Suspect cables have failed inspections at two reactor plants.
- On October 17 it was revealed that the Korean Government would sue LS Group, which owns JS Cable − the major culprit in supply of suspect cables.
- Another piece hinted that LS Group might sue Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.
- On October 22, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power confirmed it would sue LS Group for very significant amounts in damages."
On October 13, a government working group recommended that nuclear power capacity be kept between 22−29% of total electricity generation by 2035, well below existing plans to grow the sector to 41% in less than 20 years. The government will hold public hearings to decide whether to back the recommendation before finalising its policy in December.
See also Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens'