Bogus reactor parts
Coming events cast their shadows before, an old saying goes. If this proves right, Koreans won’t be able to shake off ominous feelings on possible nuclear incidents here.
The nation’s atomic power plant operators, who stirred social controversy by hiding problems in emergency power generators for one month, were found to have used homebuilt knockoffs, instead of authentic foreign products, for vital pieces of equipment.
Officials at the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corp. refute the replicas are no different from originals as they were produced from the same patents.
To prove such allegations true, the officials must explain first why the operators have not made public the use of knockoffs, and why an official responsible for parts procurement has received kickbacks from local suppliers. Experts say even the slightest difference in components, high-end, low-pressure seal units, can cause problems.
What makes this utter insensitivity to safety widespread among nuclear plant operators all the more risky is the nation’s extremely poor preparedness for potential accidents, as Greenpeace pointed out in its latest report. By comparing Fukushima and Korea’s nuclear belt along its southeastern coast, the international environment group said the damage from an accident would be almost incomparable between here and in Japan.
Korea’s population density around atomic power stations is third highest in the world and more than 10 times higher than in Japan; the nation’s emergency zones are too small, only one-fourth the level of Japan’s expanded designation; and its stockpiles of thyroid medication, which must be taken within five hours of radiation exposure, is enough for only 186,000 people, compared with some European countries, which have sufficient medication for every citizen.
The Lee Myung-bak administration’s ambitious ``nuclear renaissance” program of exporting reactors ― regardless of whether it is desirable or even recommendable ― cannot even take off without solving safety problems.
Overseas sales aside, the government must ease local people’s anxiety first if the nation’s peculiar situation keeps it from phasing out nuclear power in a short time. To prevent a nightmarish scenario, all the officials involved, from President Lee down to manual workers, must renew their consciousness about safety.