South Korea and Nuclear Safety

The coat of arms of South Korea Español: escud...
The coat of arms of South Korea Español: escudo de Corea del Sur 日本語: 大韓民国の国章 中文: 大韩民国国徽 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

South Korea and Nuclear Safety

South Korea has become the center of a nuclear corruption scandal. Basically, parts that meet the safety requirements of a nuclear plant are expensive. Sub standard parts can save a plant operator millions upon millions of dollars. So, they faked the required documents and used sub standard parts on what appears to be a gigantic scale.

Now, I’m one of those foolish people who keep pointing at the record of problems with nuclear safety. I have the perception regarded by many, even some modern environmentalists as foolish, that nuclear power has been distinguished by lies, exaggerations, safety violations and the occasional complete disaster during all of the history of its use.

Isn’t this a cautionary tale when many reactors in the fourth most powerful economic power in Asia are found to be using parts that in an emergency will fail?

What worries me is the enormous sums of money to be made by evading the safety standards. If a nuclear plant melts down, thousands of square miles can be unusable for human habitations for tens of thousands of years. In fact, the exclusion zone at Chernobyl is 1,006 square miles. For comparison, Benton County in Arkansas is roughly 880 square miles. Oklahoma City is 612 square miles. it’s a lot of real estate to lose permanently unless you consider twenty thousand years or so a reasonable amount of time to wait.

I believe that the temptation to make millions of dollars by evading the regulations in nuclear power plants makes a nuclear disaster inevitable.

James Pilant

Below are a few news stories on the South Korean nuclear corruption story.

South Korea charges 100 with corruption over nuclear scandal

October 10th, 2013 South Korea
has indicted 100 people, including a top former state utility official,
of corruption in a scandal over fake safety certifications for parts in
its nuclear reactors, authorities said on Thursday.

Asia’s fourth largest economy
has faced a series of shutdowns of nuclear reactors due to fake
documents going back to late 2012. Of its 23 reactors, six remain
offline, including three halted in May to replace cables supplied with
bogus certificates.

hope the so-called nuclear mafia style behavior would be rooted out if
strict investigations and law enforcement and system reforms continue,”
Kim Dong-yeon, a top government policy coordinator, told a news

Stung by Scandal, S. Korea Weighs Costs of Curbing Nuclear Power

October 28th, 2013

A shift away from nuclear, which generates a third of South Korea’s
electricity, could cost tens of billions of dollars a year by boosting
imports of liquefied natural gas, oil or coal.

Although helping calm safety concerns, it would also push the government
into a politically sensitive debate over whether state utilities could
pass on sharply higher power bills to households and companies.

Gas, which makes up half of South Korea’s energy bill while accounting
for only a fifth of its power, would likely be the main substitute for
nuclear, as it is considered cleaner than coal and plants can be built
more easily near cities.

“If the proportion of nuclear power is cut, other fuel-based power
generation has to be raised. If we use LNG, the cost will definitely go
up,” said Hwang Woo-hyun, vice president of state-run utility Korea
Electric Power Corp (KEPCO).

Scandal threatens South Korea nuclear-export ambitions

November 7th, 2013 Selling nuclear equipment is a point of pride for a nation that has
made stunning gains in technology in a single generation. South Korea
also has planned to step up nuclear power at home as a way to reduce
fossil-fuel imports and burnish its green credentials. Eighteen plants
are supposed to be built before 2030.

“That’s going to be in jeopardy,” said Katharine H.S. Moon, professor
of political science at Wellesley College. However, “if the government
can correct this efficiently and quickly and transparently, they will
have a better chance of resuming their export ambitions.”

The investigation isn’t the first problem to hit the South Korean
nuclear sector this year. Two reactors were temporarily shut down last
month after malfunctions, and corruption charges hit employees at the
state nuclear power agency earlier this year. In the latest scandal,
South Korean media reported that the forged safety certificates only
came to light because of an outside tip, which has added to the public

“I don’t think you can have confidence that the system is working
until the agencies catch these things on their own,” Lyman said.

From around the web.

From the web site, Counterfeit Parts.

South Korea Shuts Down 2 Nuclear Reactors – VOA Breaking News

South Korea has been forced to shut down two nuclear reactors to replace components provided with fake quality certificates…

Japan ministers ignored safety warnings over nuclear reactors (via The Guardian)

From Wikipedia

Could nuclear power be used safely? I’m not sure. But it is clear that the humans managing those reactors cannot be trusted. Corporate PR, governmental incompetence and lies have encompassed the industry from the beginning. It hasn’t gotten any better.

Over and over again we are assured that everything is okay. They can’t melt down. The safety mechanisms are foolproof. The containment vessel cannot be breached. Multiple backup systems insure safety. And then the impossible happens. We are of course immediately assured that this was an unusual event, unprecedented and could never happen here.

It is incredible how many pundits and agencies have rushed to out to defend the nuclear industry in the last few hours.

They come right back. They are already back. It doesn’t matter what happens. It doesn’t matter the warnings ignored, the stupid decisions made or even the scope of the disaster, the nuclear power industry keeps right on going.

Is this it?

Do we live in a nation where business gets its way, no matter what the risk?

From The Guardian (UK):

The timing of the near nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi could not have been more appropriate. In only a few weeks the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear plant disaster ever to affect our planet – at Chernobyl in Ukraine. A major core meltdown released a deadly cloud of radioactive material over Europe and gave the name Chernobyl a terrible resonance.

This weekend it is clear that the name Fukushima came perilously close to achieving a similar notoriety. However, the real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a “fundamental vulnerability” to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes.

The financialization of our society has become so intense, so pervasive, that profit outweighs all other consideration.

I have serious doubts whether a full scale melt down with thousands of dead and a thousands of square miles of land radioactive for generations will stop the industry from building plants in the United States.

In the pursuit of profit, human intelligence and judgment have largely ceased to exist.

Let me explain this once and then I’ll quit. If there is a nuclear melt down, depending on its location there will a lot of deaths or few deaths, a large area will be permanently contaminated (Chernobyl was 10,800 square miles) and useless for any human activity, and lastly, the radiation will spread causing damage to the genetic code of those it touches. The damage to the genetic code will probably be trans generational working its way through all of humanity as we reproduce.

Compare these risks to the power generated and ask yourself if they balance out.

James Pilant

Industry Press Release for Nuclear Power

In Japan, a nuclear plant was damaged by an earthquake. It’s cooling system went off line. The back up diesel power system to maintain the cooling system failed. The building housing the nuclear reactor exploded.

However, this is how nuclear power was described at the opening of a new plant.

From STPNOC press release – (PRINCETON, NJ, September 24, 2007)

“It is a new day for energy in America. Advanced technology nuclear power plants like STP 3 and 4, generating a vast amount of electricity cleanly, safely and reliably, will make an enormous contribution toward the greater energy security of the United States,” said David Crane, NRG’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “But equally, this announcement heralds a new day for the environment. Advanced nuclear technology is the only currently viable large-scale alternative to traditional coal-fueled generation to produce none of the traditional air emissions—and most importantly in this age of climate change—no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.”

From further down in the press release –

“This is an historic event for the future of nuclear power in America. Around the world, consumers are benefiting from clean, efficient nuclear power. Finally, as a result of years of hard work, our nation is now on the verge of taking greater advantage of this technology.  I’m excited to see an investor-owned company submit the first combined operating license application in nearly 30 years, and I hope it is the first of many to come,” said United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), who serves as ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A little further –

“Nuclear power is an essential component of any comprehensive national energy plan,” said United States Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.). “It has been 20 years since we have built a nuclear power plant, and it is long past time that we build a new one. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, 35 new nuclear power plants are needed in the next 40 years to keep pace with our escalating energy demand. A new power plant in Texas will prove to help combat the impact of global climate change and allow America to continue on a path toward energy independence.”

And here is the reality of nuclear power –

Is Nuclear Power a Clean/Green Technology? (via Gas-Engineless Machines)

One of our prophets.

Nuclear power was never a good idea.

James Pilant

Switzerland, my other home country, is in the midst of an energy discussion that transports me back to the 70s: Whether or not to build nuclear power plants. I was a teenager when this discussion raged in and around Basel because authorities were planning on building a nuclear power station about thirty kilometers away. They were sit ins, demonstrations, and a huge movement against nuclear power. On the other hand, there was the nuclear power ind … Read More

via Gas-Engineless Machines