South Korea Shuts Two Reactors on Parts Documentation Scandal

South Korea’s government on Monday shut down two nuclear reactors at the Yeonggwang nuclear complex owned by the state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), which it said were equipped with thousands of parts allegedly linked to forged quality and safety warranties.

KHNP, a firm fully owned by Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) and which operates the nation’s 23 nuclear reactors, on Nov. 2 reported that eight unnamed firms that supplied parts had faked 60 certificates covering 7,682 nuclear power components over a period of nearly 10 years, from 2003 to 2012. The company has pledged to probe the components and replace them by the end of the year. Officials said the components were not expected to affect safety at the reactors.

Components used in South Korea’s 23 reactors, which provide about 35% of its power needs, require quality and safety warranties from one of 12 international organizations recognized by the country’s government.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy on Monday revealed that about 95% of the parts, which include fuses, switches, and 230 other items, were manufactured in Europe and in the U.S. Seven of the suppliers were South Korean and one was from the U.S., reported Bloomberg.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission expanded an investigation into forged safety certificates and reactor components for all 23 of the nation’s reactors, as well as five other under construction—though the government does not plan to shut down any other reactors while the probe is ongoing. The commission has reportedly set up an investigation team of nearly 60 private and state experts.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, KHNP CEO Kim Kyun Seop reportedly told lawmakers in a hearing in Seoul that he planned to step down. “I will focus on rectifying the mess, and then will step down to take responsibility,” he said, widely quoted by media. “It’s important to clean up the wrongdoings that happened in the past.”

Concerns are mounting about how South Korea will produce enough power while the two Yeonggwang reactors remain closed until at least January. Five other reactors are also offline for regular maintenance, meaning that South Korea’s total generating capacity of 81.7 GW is currently short 6.5 GW. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has said it will not increase stocks of liquefied natural gas and coal; instead, it will "control demand." Meetings are forthcoming to detail measures to tamp down demand.
Sources: POWERnews, South Korea Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Nuclear Safety and Security Commission
—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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