South Korea widens nuclear lapses probe; KEPCO chief resigns

SEOUL Wed Nov 7, 2012 3:01pm IST

Related Topics


Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea widened a probe into how thousands of parts for its nuclear reactors were supplied using forged safety documents, with regulators set to inspect all 23 of the country's facilities - a move that could test public support for the industry and threaten billions of dollars worth of exports.

Two reactors remained shut on Wednesday, and five others are closed for maintenance, or through other glitches, raising the prospect of winter power shortages. The nuclear industry supplies close to a third of South Korea's electricity.

The authorities have stressed that the parts - such as fuses, switches and heat sensors - are non-crucial, and there is no safety risk.

Kim Joong-kyum, president and CEO of power utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), which owns the operator of the nation's nuclear plants, tendered his resignation for what KEPCO officials said were "personal reasons". The presidential office would decide this weekend whether to accept Kim's resignation, an economy ministry official said.

A second nuclear official, appointed in June after a series of closures at other nuclear plants, also said he would resign once the investigations over the latest lapses were completed.

"I am sorting out what happened in the past. I will resign at any time once this is settled," Kim Kyun-seop, head of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, the KEPCO subsidiary that runs the country's nuclear industry and reviews equipment certification, told a parliamentary hearing.

KEPCO stock fell 3 percent to its lowest close in a month.

The closure of the two reactors in Yeonggwang county, 300 km (186 miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, and concerns of more widespread potential problems with a large and growing nuclear programme, come after last year's nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan.

"Following Fukushima, our residents have become more and more concerned about safety levels at the reactor," said Na Seung-man, who chairs the local council in Yeonggwang.


South Korea's Nuclear Safety & Security Commission said it set up a team of 58 private and public investigators to inspect all the country's reactors to see if they were supplied with parts with forged certificates.

"The team will inspect all 23 reactors, which will take some time, as you can imagine," a spokeswoman for the commission, which supervises nuclear safety, told Reuters. The commission said it plans measures to improve supply systems, quality controls and external auditing.

Eight companies submitted 60 false certificates to cover more than 7,000 parts used in the two reactors between 2003 and 2012, and Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo told parliament that most of the documents, which purported to come from certifying body UCI, were forgeries.

A senior ministry official told Reuters that UCI was one of 12 U.S. certifiers, but was not one of the eight firms under investigation. The firms have not been named.

Public support for nuclear power remains strong in South Korea, even after the Fukushima disaster last year, and Seoul plans to have added another 11 reactors by 2024.

The regulator, however, has come under fire.

"The problem here is that nothing has been done to put in place a system that will allow for oversight, at a time when we need stepped up safety management," opposition legislator Oh Young-sik of the Democratic United Party told parliament.


The investigation had not prompted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to reconsider its 2009 order for some $20 billion worth of nuclear plant and construction work contracted to a KEPCO-led South Korean consortium, a spokesman for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation told Reuters in Dubai.

Also, Byun Jun-yeon, an executive vice president at KEPCO in charge of reactor exports, told Reuters the fraud would not damage the utility's export drive.

"The effects of this development on existing contracts like the UAE will be insignificant," he said. "From what I understand, the parts that were fraudulently certified were not key to the function of the nuclear reactor, rather they were for general usage in non-critical aspects.

"It's an ethical failure."

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim and Narae Kim in SEOUL and Amena Bakr in DUBAI; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)


After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC share sale scheduled for this fiscal - oil minister  Full Article 

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

Record Earnings

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record  Full Article 

'Umrika' At Sundance

'Umrika' At Sundance

From Oscars to Sundance, Sharma and Revolori discuss India's 'Umrika'  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Smooth Wawrinka, ill Serena through to Melbourne semis   Full Article 

India's Male Tenor

India's Male Tenor

India's lone male tenor aims to sing opera in local key  Full Article 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State  Full Article 

Tripoli Attack

Tripoli Attack

Frenchman, American among those killed in Tripoli hotel attack - Libyan official.  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

Blizzard hits Boston and New England, spares New York despite forecasts.  Full Article 

Spying Row

Spying Row

Spying program leaked by Snowden is tied to campaign in many countries.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage