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Don`t stop nuclear power, make it safer

Posted November. 06, 2012 05:33,   


The number of parts sold by eight parts suppliers to nuclear power plants by fabricating quality assurance has been found to reach a shocking 7,682 pieces of 237 items, though the parts were disposables used outside the encased nuclear reactor. How amazing that the nuclear plants operated normally despite the extensive use of such defected parts. With fears over nuclear safety high after the disaster at Japan`s Fukushima nuclear reactor, Korea can hardly afford to be at ease given that a defect of even a tiny part could trigger public distrust in nuclear energy. In the past, certain employees of Korea Hydro-Nuclear Power Co. were caught taking bribes from certain suppliers in return for supply contracts. Authorities should thoroughly check for any structural irregularities in procurement practices for nuclear plant parts in the latest case as well.

A car needs 20,000 parts and an airplane 300,000. In contrast, a nuclear reactor has about a million parts and components since it constitutes the integration of comprehensive cutting-edge technologies. The launch of the Naro-1 space rocket was suspended Oct. 26 due to a single part, while the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded because of a spark caused by a defective O-shaped ring in the rocket booster that spread to an external fuel tank. A nuclear reactor accident is a disaster incomparable in magnitude to a mishap in a rocket launch. The Knowledge Economy Ministry suspended the operation of Yeonggwang Nuclear Power plants No. 5 and 6, which used a large number of fake parts, in a pre-emptive move to help ease public anxiety. There is no overreaction as far as risk management is concerned. The hydro-nuclear power company must replace every single screw nail with defects. Additionally, its quality management system should be revamped to prevent recurrence of a similar accident.

Following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Korean public has grown highly anxious over even a tiny accident and suspension of plant operations. Japan chose a zero-nuclear policy to alleviate its people`s anxiety, but has resumed operation of nuclear reactors because it could not afford the high price of imported energy and its impact on industry. Expanding such plants without assuring safety and persuading the public is out of the question. Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, and independent rival Ahn Cheol-soo have pledged not to build new nuclear power plants. Pak Geun-hye, the candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, has been reluctant to clarify her position. Candidates have vowed to increase the portion of renewable energy relative to the nation’s energy demand by 20 to 30 percent by 2030, but these pledges are not realistic at best. Korea can hardly afford to give up nuclear power until a cheaper and safer technology to produce electricity is developed. The three candidates should be assessed after announcing energy policies that are sustainable and more realistic.

After the suspension of the Wolseong Nuclear Plant No. 1, Yeonggwang Nuclear Power plants No. 5 and 6 also had operations halted, and thus the nation could suffer the most serious case of power shortage in its history in the coming winter. The country can withstand the situation through December, but power reserves will hit bottom in January and February, when freezing weather arrives. The government should manage electricity supply under an emergency mode, and the public should also join a campaign to conserve energy.