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U.S., Japan, S.Korea to meet over N.Korea nuclear standoff

U.S., Japan, S.Korea to meet over N.Korea nuclear standoff, By Josh Smith   SEOUL, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan will hold a meeting on North Korea next week in Tokyo, South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed on Friday.

The three countries have been discussing ways to break a standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have drawn international sanctions.

……………. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it will explore diplomacy to achieve North Korean denuclearisation, but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.

…… Pyongyang has also said it is open to diplomacy, but that it sees no sign of policy changes from the United States, citing issues such as sanctions as well as joint military drills with South Korea.Reporting by Josh Smith and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul and David Brunnstrom in Washiington; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alistair Bell  https://www.reuters.com/world/us-japan-skorea-meet-over-nkorea-nuclear-standoff-2021-09-10/

September 11, 2021 Posted by | politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Korea developing a missile as powerful as a nuclear weapon

S Korea developing missile as powerful as nuclear weapon, Al Jazeera,  3 Sept 21,
Three-tonne missile designed to destroy underground facilities by penetrating tunnels to effectively nullify nuclear launches.  
South Korea is in the final stages of developing a surface-to-surface ballistic missile as powerful as a tactical nuclear warhead, Yonhap news agency reported, as the country unveiled budget proposals aimed at bolstering its defences against North Korea.

According to the report published on Thursday, the new weapon can carry a warhead of up to three tonnes with a flight range of 350 to 400 km (217 to 248 miles).

The missile is designed to destroy underground missile facilities and bases by penetrating underground tunnels to effectively nullify nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ahead of their launches. The report said it can also reach all areas of North Korea if fired from around the inter-Korean border.

The project went ahead after the full lifting of US-imposed restrictions on missile development……….

The missile would be the latest in a tit-for-tat conventional missile race between the two Koreas…………

The defence plan also seeks to expand Seoul’s presence in space with an eye to deploy a new radar system to monitor space objects by the early 2030s.

Meanwhile, its Navy also plans to build more 3,000-tonne or larger submarines to replace ageing frigates with new ones with improved operational and combat capabilities.  https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/3/s-korea-developing-missile-as-powerful-as-nuclear-weapon-report

September 4, 2021 Posted by | South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear Weapons in South Korea? Not So Fringe Anymore.

Nuclear Weapons in South Korea? Not So Fringe Anymore.

Conservatives in South Korea’s upcoming presidential election support the country’s nuclear armament. This trend may be a sign that Washington might soon be dealing with an incoming administration who potentially champions a dangerous pro-nuclear policy.by William Kim  The National Interest,  22 Aug 21
, Don’t be taken aback if one of the hottest issues for South Korea’s upcoming presidential election is nuclear weapons—more specifically, the need for South Korea to possess its own. While North Korea has refrained from nuclear weapons testing since 2017, the progress they demonstrated in the past has moved the nuclear debate to the forefront of South Korean society. This year, Kim Jong-un’s remarks about strengthening the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear arsenal delivered at the recent Eighth Party Congress was enough for South Korean conservatives to once again stand in favor of developing their own nuclear weapons. With the South Korean presidential election in March 2022 quickly approaching, political discourse in Seoul about nuclear armament is a trend not to be ignored by the U.S. government.

Hawkish voices in favor of nuclearization in South Korea are not new. …………….. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/nuclear-weapons-south-korea-not-so-fringe-anymore-192122

August 23, 2021 Posted by | South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Korean fishermen protest against the dumping of Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean

S.Korean fishermen hold boat protests against Japan nuclear plans, Reuters 30 Apr 21,  Hundreds of South Korean fishermen across the country held protests on Friday calling on Japan to reverse its decision to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

About 800 fishermen participated in rallies at ports in nine cities, according to South Korea’s National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives.

At one port, at Gungpyeong on the west coast, fishermen held anti-Japan banners and chanted slogans such as “Withdraw Japan’s decision” and “Condemn irresponsible nuclear attack”. Twenty fishing boats with banners denouncing Japan’s decision sailed near the port.

“My father bequeathed this sea to me and I’m going to pass it on to my son, who is also fishing,” said Park Re-seung, chief of Yongdu-ri fishing village, who has worked in the fishing industry for 38 years. “Why is Japan doing this? How could they do such a bad thing against the sea? Don’t they eat fish?”…….

“For us, this issue is about making our living,” Park added. “If the customers continue to see the news of the water release, they wouldn’t be even buying fishes that we caught here.”  https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/skorean-fishermen-hold-boat-protests-against-japan-nuclear-plans-2021-04-30/

May 1, 2021 Posted by | oceans, South Korea, wastes | Leave a comment

S.Korean students shave heads in protest over Japan’s nuclear waste water plan


S.Korean students shave heads in protest over Japan’s nuclear waste water plan, Reuters, Hyun Yi  21 Apr 21
, More than 30 South Korean college students shaved their heads in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on Tuesday to protest Japan’s decision to release water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

Police periodically dispersed crowds, who chanted and held placards, but did not stop the event from taking place, though there is an anti-pandemic ban on gatherings larger than 10 people.

The protesters who were shaved were draped in protective sheets emblazoned with messages condemning the Japanese plan and calling for it to be ditched.

One read: “The Japanese government should immediately cancel the plan to release the contaminated water.”…….. https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/skorean-students-shave-heads-protest-over-japans-nuclear-waste-water-plan-2021-04-20/

April 22, 2021 Posted by | South Korea, wastes | Leave a comment

South Korea raises with USA its worries about Fukushima water to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean

South Korea raises Fukushima concerns with U.S,

Yahoo News, April 18, 2021  As U.S. climate envoy John Kerry appeared in Seoul over the weekend to discuss global warming,

South Korea’s foreign ministry says it raised concerns to him over Japan’s plans to dump contaminated water from its defunct Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea…….

Under the plan, more than 1 million tonnes of water will be discharged from the plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Seoul has strongly rebuked the decision……

Kerry’s visit to Seoul precedes U.S. President Joe Biden’s virtual summit with world leaders on climate change, set for two days starting April 22. https://news.yahoo.com/south-korea-raises-fukushima-concerns-080908571.html

April 19, 2021 Posted by | oceans, politics international, South Korea, wastes | Leave a comment

South Korea aims to fight, at International Tribunal, Japan’s plan to empty Fukushima water into Paific Ocean


S Korea aims to fight Japan’s Fukushima decision at tribunal, 
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/14/s-korea-aims-to-fight-japans-fukushima-decision-at-tribunal, 15 Apr S Korea
Moon Jae-in asks officials to look at ways to refer Japan’s Fukushima decision to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered officials to explore petitioning an international court over Japan’s decision to release water from its Fukushima nuclear plant, his spokesman said, amid protests by fisheries and environmental groups.

Moon said officials should look into ways to refer Japan’s move to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, including filing for an injunction, spokesman Kang Min-seok told a briefing.

Japan unveiled plans on Tuesday to release more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea from the plant, which was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, starting in about two years after filtering it to remove harmful isotopes.South Korea protested strongly against the decision, summoning Koichi Aiboshi, Tokyo’s ambassador in Seoul, and convening an intra-agency emergency meeting to craft its response.

Moon also expressed concerns about the decision as Aiboshi presented his credentials, having arrived in South Korea in February for the ambassador’s post.“I cannot but say that there are many concerns here about the decision as a country that is geologically closest and shares the sea with Japan,” Moon said, asking Aiboshi to convey such worries to Tokyo, according to Kang.An aerial view shows the storage tanks for treated water at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan February 13, 2021 [Kyodo via Reuters]South Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying it had raised similar concerns with the United States after the Department of State said Japan’s decision was “transparent” and in line with global safety standards.

The ministry also said it shared “strong regret and serious concerns” about the water’s planned release at a video conference on Wednesday with Chinese officials on maritime issues.

A series of protests against the move by politicians, local officials, fishermen and environmental activists took place in South Korea on Wednesday, including in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and consulates in the port city of Busan and on Jeju island.

A coalition of 25 fisheries organisations staged a rally and delivered a written protest to the embassy, urging Tokyo to revoke the decision and Seoul to ban imports from Japanese fisheries.

“Our industry is on course to suffer annihilating damage, just with people’s concerns about a possible radioactive contamination of marine products,” it said in a statement.

The progressive minor opposition Justice Party and some 30 anti-nuclear and environmental groups called Japan’s move “nuclear terrorism,” and said they sent the Japanese embassy a list of signatures of more than 64,000 people opposed to the move collected from 86 countries since February.

April 15, 2021 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

The United States collaborates on nuclear pyroprocessing with South Korea. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021,  ”…………………………………The United States collaborates on pyroprocessing with South Korea. The Idaho and Argonne National Laboratories also continue to promote the pyroprocessing of spent fuel. After the Clinton Administration shut down the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in 1994, the laboratory persuaded the Energy Department to continue to fund pyroprocessing as a way to process Experimental Breeder Reactor II spent fuel and blanket assemblies into stable waste forms for disposal in a deep underground repository. The proposal was to complete this effort in 2007. According to a review by Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, as of the end of Fiscal Year 2016, only about 18 percent of the roughly 26 metric tons of assemblies had been processed at a cost of over $200 million into waste forms that are not stable. (Since then, an additional three percent has been processed.)

During the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Cheney accepted Argonne’s argument that pyroprocessing is “proliferation resistant” and the two US national laboratories were allowed to share the technology with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

At the beginning of the Obama administration, however, a group of safeguards experts from six Energy Department national laboratories, including Argonne and Idaho, concluded that pyroprocessing is not significantly more resistant to proliferation than PUREX, the standard reprocessing technology originally developed by the United States to extract plutonium for its weapons.

In 2014, the US-Republic of Korea Agreement for Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was due to expire, but the negotiations on a successor agreement bogged down over Korea’s insistence that the new agreement include the same right to reprocess spent fuel as the 1988 US-Japan Agreement for Cooperation.

The compromise reached the following year was that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and the Idaho National Laboratory would complete their Joint Fuel Cycle Study on “the technical, economic, and nonproliferation (including safeguards) aspects of spent fuel management and disposition technologies.” If the United States could be convinced that the proliferation risks of pyroprocessing were manageable, the secretary of energy would give consent for South Korea to use the technology on its territory. The final report from the joint study is due this year.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Moon Jae-in was elected president of the Republic of Korea on a platform that included not building any more nuclear power plants in South Korea. Fast-neutron reactors and pyroprocessing obviously do not fit with that policy. This gives the Biden administration an opportunity to end a cooperative nuclear-energy research and development program that is contrary to both US nuclear nonproliferation policy and South Korea’s energy policy. The United States could propose instead a joint collaborative program on safe spent fuel storage and deep underground disposal……………https://thebulletin.org/2021/04/plutonium-programs-in-east-asia-and-idaho-will-challenge-the-biden-administration/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=MondayNewsletter04122021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_EastAsia_04122021

April 13, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, South Korea, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change probably increasing this problem – nuclear reactors halted because of jellyfish-like sea salps

Jellyfish-like organisms force South Korea to halt its 2 nuclear reactors,  https://www.livemint.com/news/world/jellyfishlike-organisms-force-south-korea-to-halt-its-2-nuclear-reactors-11617794802580.htmlSea salps — gelantinous, marine organisms that look like jellyfish — have clogged water systems used to cool nuclear reactors in South Korea, forcing two units offline.

Sea salps — gelantinous, marine organisms that look like jellyfish — have clogged water systems used to cool nuclear reactors in South Korea, forcing two units offline.

It’s the second time in less than three weeks Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. shut the Hanul No. 1 and No. 2 units, after salps clogged water intake valves. The reactors, which each have a capacity of 950-megawatts, resumed operation last week before shutting again Tuesday.

Sea salps can link up into chains several meters in length and have been said to resemble a crystal chandelier drifting through the ocean. The organisms typically increase in number in June but that appears to have happened in March this year due to earlier-than-normal warm currents, said Yu Ok Hwan, a deputy director at Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology.

“We can’t say yet if the surge in salps is due to the changing climate or other factors,” said Youn Seok-hyun, a research scientist at National Institute of Fisheries Science. “It should be regarded as a temporary phenomenon unless we see a continuous increase over the next decade.”

The number of sea salps has been gradually rising in recent years, according to Chae Jinho, the head of Marine Environment Research & Information Laboratory. “Given the current trend, there’s a possibility we may see more of these shutdowns at reactors in the coming years,” he said.

South Korea has 24 operable nuclear plants with a combined capacity of more than 23 gigawatts.

The country isn’t the only one to have been forced to halt nuclear generation temporarily after sea life clogged water cooling systems. Electricite de France SA in January had to disconnect all four reactors at its Paluel nuclear plant on France’s north coast after fish got stuck in the filter drums of the pumping station.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | climate change, safety, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Korea considered setting up a nuclear power station with North Korea

South Korea says North Korea nuclear plant documents were ‘just an idea’ SEOUL (Reuters) By Hyonhee Shin  29 Jan 21, – South Korea’s energy ministry said on Sunday that documents about a potential plan to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea were meant to suggest an “idea” but this has never been pursued as an official project.

On Thursday, South Korean broadcaster SBS unveiled a prosecution indictment listing more than a dozen documents from the energy ministry that suggested a previously unknown project to set up a nuclear plant in North Korea.

This raised questions over whether South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had sought any nuclear energy programme for North Korea as part of his drive to restart inter-Korean economic cooperation.

Many of the files were dated to May 2018, a month after Moon held his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Shin Hee-dong, spokesman of South Korea’s energy ministry, said the files were “internal documents” that were discussed only among ministry officials after the summit, as an idea to consider in the future when the two Koreas can potentially reopen economic exchanges. ……

The documents were among some 530 that the ministry had deleted to conceal that it had distorted feasibility studies to shut down a reactor in South Korea. Prosecutors last month indicted three officials on charges of violating the Criminal Act by damaging public records.

Some of the files were reportedly titled “A plan to build a nuclear plant in North Korea” and “Tasks for phased cooperation to establish electricity infrastructure in North Korea.”

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Frances Kerry https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-northkorea/south-korea-says-north-korea-nuclear-plant-documents-were-just-an-idea-idUSKBN2A00CG?il=0

 

February 1, 2021 Posted by | politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Korean government to cut nuclear power generation

9th National Power Supply Plan Finalized
Government to Cut Coal-fired and Nuclear Power Generation,
Business Korea, By Jung Suk-yee,  December 29, 2020The South Korean government finalized its ninth national power supply plan on Dec. 28. According to it, half of coal-fired power plants in South Korea will be shut down within 15 years for the purpose of carbon reduction, 11 old nuclear power plants will be shut down at the ends of their service lives without any service life extension, and LNG- and renewable energy-based power generation will be expanded to offset the resultant decrease in power supply. ……
When it comes to nuclear power plants, the government is planning to increase the number from 24 to 26 from this year to 2024 and then decrease it to 17 by 2034. The capacity of the plants will be reduced from 23.3 GW to 19.4 GW from this year to 2034……..http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=57559

December 31, 2020 Posted by | politics, South Korea | Leave a comment

 SOUTH KOREA’S CORRUPT AND DANGEROUS NUCLEAR INDUSTRY

“During the eighteen months from the beginning of 2012 to mid- 2013, major corruption incidents occurred in the nuclear power industry in every country currently seeking to export nuclear reactors: the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Russia, France, and China….. “In the Korean case, systemic nuclear industry corruption was found

Supplementary Submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Environment and Planning
Inquiry into Nuclear Prohibition Friends of the Earth Australia www.nuclear.foe.org.au
 June 2020  – Extract 

 SOUTH KOREA’S CORRUPT AND DANGEROUS NUCLEAR INDUSTRY

South Korea’s reactor project in the UAE is years behind schedule: the start-up of the first reactor has not yet occurred despite initially being scheduled for 2017. The project has been promoted as a US$20 billion (A$29 billion) contract but costs have undoubtedly increased. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report gives a figure of €24.4 billion (A$40 billion).[1]

[1] https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/The-World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-2017-HTML.html

[2] KBS, 8 May 2020, ‘S. Korea Unveils Energy Plan to Reduce Coal-powered, Nuclear Power Plants’, http://world.kbs.co.kr/service/news_view.htm

The following articles discuss:

  1. The endemic corruption in South Korea’s nuclear industry.
  2. The business model which sacrifices safety in order to improve economics (the CEO of French nuclear utility Areva likened Korea’s AP1400 reactor design to ‘a car without airbags and safety belts.'[1])
  3. The level of state-sponsored skullduggery associated with South Korea’s nuclear industry is almost beyond belief, even extending to a secret military side-agreement to the UAE reactor contract which was agreed without the knowledge or agreement of South Korea’s parliament

Nuclear corruption and the partial reform of South Korea’s nuclear mafia

Jim Green, Nuclear Monitor #887, 17 June 2020, https://wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/887/nuclear-monitor-887-17-june-2020

The corrupt behavior of Japan’s ‘nuclear village’ ‒ and the very existence of the nuclear village ‒ were root causes of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster and a string of earlier accidents.1 In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, academic Richard Tanter identified a worldwide pattern of nuclear corruption:2

“During the eighteen months from the beginning of 2012 to mid- 2013, major corruption incidents occurred in the nuclear power industry in every country currently seeking to export nuclear reactors: the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Russia, France, and China. A number of other countries that operate or plan to have nuclear power plants also had major corruption cases, including Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Pakistan; moreover, serious allegations of corruption were raised in Egypt, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Slovakia, South Africa, and Taiwan.

 “In the Korean case, systemic nuclear industry corruption was found; in Canada, deep corporate corruption within the largest nuclear engineering corporation was one matter, and bribery of nuclear technology consuming countries’ senior ministers was another. In Russia, the issue was persistent, deep seated, and widespread corruption in state-owned and private nuclear industry companies, with profound implications for the safety of Russian nuclear industry exports.

South Korea is slowly phasing out its nuclear power industry. In the late 2000s, it was anticipated that South Korea’s nuclear capacity would rise from 18 gigawatts (GW) to 43 GW by 2030. The current plan is to reduce the number of reactors from a peak of 26 in 2024 to 17 reactors (approx. 17 GW) in 2034.[2] Thus the ambitions have been more than halved. In recent years the South Korean government has shut down the Kori-1 and Wolsong-1 reactors, and suspended or cancelled plans for six further reactors.

“Two cases in nuclear technology importing countries, Lithuania and Bulgaria, revealed large-scale bribery involving government, the nuclear industry, and foreign (US and Russian) companies.

 “Post-Soviet bloc geostrategic energy interests are central to both stories. The profound influence of organized crime in national energy policy, and on a transnational basis, is revealed in the Bulgarian and Russian cases. Suspicions are widespread and allegations common in the cases of India, Taiwan, and Bangladesh, but confirmed evidence remains weak.”

Since Tanter’s 2013 article, more information has surfaced regarding corruption in Russia’s nuclear industry3-4 and Russia’s nuclear dealings with India.5-7 The corruption associated with the abandoned Westinghouse nuclear power project in South Carolina is gradually coming to light.8 Corruption has been uncovered in the nuclear programs of South Africa9-15, Brazil16, Ukraine17 and, no doubt, elsewhere.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted in its 2015 Nuclear Technology Review that counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items (CFSIs) “are becoming an increasing concern for operating organizations and regulators”18 And again in 2019, an IAEA report noted that CFSIs “are of increasing concern in the nuclear industry and generally throughout the industrial and commercial supply chains.”19 The 2019 report noted that CFSIs “can pose immediate and potential threats to worker safety, facility performance, the public and the environment, and they can negatively impact facility costs.”

 “Post-Soviet bloc geostrategic energy interests are central to both stories. The profound influence of organized crime in national energy policy, and on a transnational basis, is revealed in the Bulgarian and Russian cases. Suspicions are widespread and allegations common in the cases of India, Taiwan, and Bangladesh, but confirmed evidence remains weak.”

“The sequence of events that led to the station blackout began on 4 February 2012 when the management carried out a planned shutdown of the reactor for refuelling. On 9 February, the plant suffered a loss of power due to human error during a test of the main generator. After this, one of the two emergency diesel generators failed to start. The other generator was undergoing maintenance. In addition, the connection to one of the offsite auxiliary transformers failed to work as it had not been properly set up after maintenance; and the other offsite transformer was just entering maintenance. This caused a station blackout lasting 11 minutes 43 seconds. Cooling was lost for 11 minutes. The plant manager only reported the event to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission on 12 March, more than one month later. … The plant manager justified the decision not to report the blackout on the risk of loss of public confidence and of credibility of the plant with the management of the operating company.”

Not long after, a much broader pattern of corruption began to come to light:

“Investigations of 101 companies revealed a wide range of illegal activities including bribery, overpaying, preferential treatment and favouritism, limiting competition in bidding, accepting parts with fraudulent or even no certificate, and collusion by parties in the falsification of testing reports.”

An investigation by the Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety showed that 2,114 test reports had been falsified by material suppliers and equipment manufacturers; that a further 62 equipment qualification documents (environmental and seismic qualification) were falsified between 1996 and 2012; and that a further 3,408 test reports and 53 qualification reports could not be verified or were unclear.22,23 Over 7,000 reactor parts were replaced in the aftermath of the scandal.23

Andrews-Speed details the corruption that probably had the greatest consequences for reactor safety:22

[1] Nucleonics Week (2010) : No core catcher, double containment for UAE reactors, South Koreans say, April 22, 2010.

“A very special case of systematic counterfeiting came to light in May 2013 when it was revealed that safety-grade control cable installed in four reactors had been falsely certified. The supplier of the cable was a Korean company, JS Cable. In 2004, KHNP decided for the first time to purchase cable from a domestic rather than foreign supplier. JS Cable submitted a bid to KEPCO E&C, despite not having the capability to make cable to the required specifications. KHNP awarded the contract to JS Cable with the first delivery due in 2017, on the condition that the cable met the required standards.

An investigation by the Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety showed that 2,114 test reports had been falsified by material suppliers and equipment manufacturers; that a further 62 equipment qualification documents (environmental and seismic qualification) were falsified between 1996 and 2012; and that a further 3,408 test reports and 53 qualification reports could not be verified or were unclear.22,23 Over 7,000 reactor parts were replaced in the aftermath of the scandal.23

“JS Cable chose Saehan TEP to test the cable, but this firm lacked the capacity to undertake the required loss of coolant testing. So Saehan TEP outsourced the process to the Canadian testing firm, RCM Technologies (RCMT). RCMT tested six samples, but only one passed. JS Cable sent six further samples. Only two passed, but these two samples were illegitimate as they had not been exposed to radiation before testing. In response, KHNP instructed KEPCO E&C to make the test results acceptable. So KEPCO E&C, Saehan TEP and JS cable agreed together to modify the test reports from RCMT to show that all the samples met the required standards.”

The corruption also affected South Korea’s reactor construction project in the UAE. Hyundai Heavy Industries employees offered bribes to KHNP officials in charge of the supply of parts for reactors to be exported to the UAE.24 And ‒ incredibly ‒ the reactor contract was underpinned by a secret military side-agreement, signed without the knowledge or approval of South Korea’s National Assembly, and containing a clause that does not require approval from the National Assembly to engage in conflict, should there be a request for military assistance from the UAE.25-28 The pact includes a clause that would obligate South Korea to intervene militarily to protect the UAE in the event of a crisis, in addition to the deployment of South Korean special forces and the ongoing supply of military equipment.25

Structural problems

Andrews-Speed describes the interlinking elements of South Korea’s ‘nuclear mafia’ involving nuclear power companies, research centers, regulators, government, and educational institutions. He notes that the country’s nuclear industry possesses some special features that make it particularly prone to corruption, relating to the structure and governance of the industry, and its close links with the government.

Both KHNP and KEPCO E&C are monopolists in their fields, and both suffer from poor corporate governance and weak internal management:22

“The poor corporate governance has its roots in the way in which the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is directly involved in the management of KEPCO and its subsidiaries and in the political nature of appointments of many board members and senior managers. The weak internal management was particularly pertinent to safety because, before it was amended in 2014, the Act on Nuclear Safety and Security did not address the safety standards of parts and equipment. Thus, the selling of sub-standard components was not illegal and the task of supply chain oversight was left to KHNP to manage.”

Improvements and lingering problems

Andrews-Speed notes that the Kori-1 blackout and the systemic supply-chain corruption led to efforts to curb corruption. These included revisions to the Nuclear Safety Act giving greater powers to the newly created Nuclear Safety and Security Commission; placing new reporting obligations on all actors in the nuclear supply chain; and broader legislation and regulations governing public procurement, the conduct of public officials and corruption.

But it is doubtful whether these reforms are sufficient:22

“The principal obstacles to progress relate to power and structure. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission lacks the authority of nuclear regulators in some other countries for a number of reasons

First, after 2013 the status of the Commission Chair was reduced from Ministerial to Vice-Ministerial level and their reporting line was changed from the President to the Prime Minister. The reason for this change of status related more to the career mobility of civil servants than to the governance of nuclear safety. Nevertheless, the consequences for the authority of the Commission have been significant. It cannot now issue any regulations without the approval of the Ministry of Justice and other Ministries. This results in delay and occasional suppression of new regulations. In addition, it has been alleged that the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission redacts and sanitizes the safety reports of the Korea Institute Nuclear Safety. The consequences of this practice on safety are exacerbated by the ability of ministries, politicians and KEPCO subsidiaries to block the tough enforcement of safety standards.

“Second, the National Assembly provides little oversight of the Commission. Instead, authority lies solely with the government. Finally, the term of the Commission Chair is just three years which is shorter than that of the nation’s president which is five years. This contrasts with the situation in the USA, for example, where the Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is appointed for a five-year term, one year longer than that of the US President. As a result, Korean Presidents have significant influence over the nuclear regulator given their remit to appoint all nine members of the Commission. Taken together, these three factors enhance the power of the executive over the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

“The structural weaknesses within Korea’s nuclear industry are multiple. The Ministries of Finance and Strategy and of Trade, Industry and Energy exert excessive influence over state-owned enterprises, including KHNP and KEPCO E&C. These two corporations not only have strong monopolistic positions but KHNP combines the roles of constructor, owner and operator of nuclear power plants. In addition, KHNP exerts undue influence over KEPCO E&C. This strong triangular relationship between government and two monopolists persists today and forms the core of Korea’s ‘nuclear mafia’. Only radical structural and governance reform can address this fundamental weakness.

 “Further compounding factors include: the corporate culture of KEPCO and its subsidiaries that emphasizes the need for conformity; the weak culture of accountability that arises in part from the absence of a strong law providing for punitive damages; and the general standard of personal and corporate ethics in Korea.”

One indication of ongoing problems ‒ and efforts to resolve them ‒ was the awarding of ‘prize money’ to 14 whistleblowers in 2019 for reporting violations of nuclear or radiation safety laws to the Nuclear Safety and Security Committee.29

There were another six arrests related to nuclear corruption in 2018 ‒ an outcome that only scratched the surface of the problems according to a whistleblower.30

A recent example of violations of safety regulations occurred at the Hanbit-1 reactor on 10 May 2019. The reactor’s thermal output exceeded safety limits but was kept running for nearly 12 hours when it should have been shut down manually at once.31 In addition, the control rods were operated by a person who does not hold a Reactor Operator’s license.32

References: Continue reading

December 29, 2020 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Korea: mayors and governors of all 17 major cities and provinces call on Japan not to dump Fukushima radioactive water into the ocean

Korea JoongAng Daily 22nd Dec 2020, The mayors and governors of all 17 major cities and provinces in Korea adopted a joint statement warning against Japan releasing contaminated water into the ocean from its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Governors Association of Korea, which includes cities that are administered as provinces, called on the Japanese government to “immediately halt discussions to release the radioactive water from Fukushima” and to “share information to the public in a transparent manner.”

The governors’ statement comes as Japan is nearing a decision on plans to release over 1.2 million tons of contaminated water
from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2020/12/22/national/socialAffairs/Fukushima-nuclear-plant-radioactive-water/20201222180600475.html

 

December 24, 2020 Posted by | politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

 Tritium is what makes nuclear reactors so dangerous, not only in Fukushima but also in S. Korea

 Tritium is what makes nuclear reactors so dangerous, not only in Fukushima but also in S. Korea,  http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/967441.html     By Kim Eun-hyoung, editorial writer, Oct.27,2020
Tritium, or hydrogen-3, is identified by the scientific symbol 3H or T. As an isotype of hydrogen, the lightest of all elements, tritium contains two neutrons, whereas ordinary hydrogen (known as protium, identified by the symbol H) contains none. That makes tritium unstable and, as a result, radioactive.

Tritium exists in the natural world, but only in negligible amounts. It’s typically produced during the fission process inside nuclear reactors. Tritium is part of the coolant that lowers the temperature in the reactor core, which is heated by fission.

The contaminated water at the Fukushima reactor that the Japanese government seeks to release into the ocean contains tritium at levels that are 10 times higher than levels permitted by the South Korean government. That has terrified people not only in Japan but also in Korea.

The Japanese government says that the contaminated water doesn’t present a problem because it will be decontaminated through Tokyo Electric Power Company’s advanced liquid processing system (ALPS), before release. But the tricky part about releasing the contaminated water is tritium, which can’t be removed by ALPS because of the strong chemical bond it forms with water.

But Fukushima isn’t the only place affected by the risk of tritium. Heavy-water reactors are cooled with heavy water (deuterium oxide, 2H2O) instead of ordinary drinking water, producing a greater amount of tritium. There are four heavy-water reactors at Korea’s Wolsong plant, including Wolsong-1, which has been in the news recently after government auditors questioned a report about its economic viability, the justification given for shutting the reactor down earlier than planned.

Tritium is regarded as a low-risk radioactive substance, causing less harm than other types of radiation. For one thing, the radiation emitted by tritium is so weak that it can’t penetrate the outer layer of the skin. And even when it is absorbed by the body, its biological half-life — the time required for half the substance to leave the body — is only 12 days.

Even now, Wolsong-2, Wolsong-3, and Wolsong-4 account for 40% of the tritium released by all of Korea’s nuclear stations. Rates of thyroid cancer among women who live near the Wolsong nuclear plant are 2.5 times higher than in other areas, which some think is linked to tritium contamination. The question of nuclear power safety affects Korea in the same way as it affects Japan. It would be foolish and contradictory to view Japanese nuclear plants through the lens of safety and Korean nuclear plants through the lens of economic viability.

But such safety observations only apply to a single dose of radiation, such as an X-ray, and the actual risk depends on the intensity of exposure. That has led various countries to develop strict safety standards for the substance. The European Committee on Radiation Risk warns that internal radiation exposure can cause mutations that could lead to cancer.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | radiation, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Korea to end dependence on coal, switch to renewables

October 29, 2020 Posted by | climate change, South Korea | Leave a comment