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The nuclear industry – a vortex of corruption

Part two | Nuclear energy in Africa, The second in this three-part series looks at how power purchase agreements raise the cost of electricity for consumers and act as major sources of inflationary pressure in economies. New Frame, By: Neil Overy, 1 Dec 2020 

”……………..A vortex of corruption

Another issue that needs to be seriously considered when evaluating the cost of nuclear power is corruption. A 2013 survey of corruption in the nuclear industry by Richard Tanter from the University of Melbourne found “widespread and often deep corruption” in the nuclear industry, saying that national and international nuclear regulatory regimes were “virtually completely ineffective”. 

In recent years, the industry has been rocked by several corruption scandals. 

In 2014, a massive corruption scandal involving South Korean nuclear vendor Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Company, resulted in dozens of employees receiving a cumulative total of 258 years in prison for fraud and corruption. Many of these charges related to the supply of counterfeit equipment, some of it safety-related, to nuclear power stations in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. 

In July, five people were arrested in Ohio in the United States, including the Ohio house speaker, for receiving $60 million from an embattled nuclear energy operator in exchange for securing the passage of a $1.5 billion bailout for the operator. 

A month later, Brazilian federal prosecutors charged a subsidiary of EDF and Brazilian nuclear company Eletronuclear with corruption.    

The construction and ongoing maintenance of nuclear power stations are areas particularly susceptible to corruption for two specific reasons. First, because they are megaprojects they are massively complicated enterprises that involve potentially hundreds of contractors and subcontractors, which creates fertile conditions for corruption. Second, these fertile conditions are exacerbated by the secrecy that surrounds nuclear power. While this secrecy is supposedly designed to stop the spread of nuclear technology or the capture of nuclear materials, it fosters an environment that is shielded from scrutiny and public oversight. 

While Africa has no recent experience of nuclear power plant construction, other recent megaprojects on the continent – the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, the Lauca Dam in Angola, the Mambilla Hydropower Project in Nigeria, and the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations in South Africa – show how corruption can become entrenched in megaprojects on the continent. 

In this regard, it is worth remembering that Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2019 found that sub-Saharan Africa was the worst performing region in the world, followed closely by North Africa. There is clearly good reason to be concerned about possible corruption in any nuclear deals concluded on the continent. South Africa’s recent unlawful deal between former president Jacob Zuma’s government and Rosatom shows just how real this danger is. 

Part three looks at the costs associated with nuclear waste disposal, decommissioning nuclear power stations and major nuclear accidents.

April 15, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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