The Korean nuclear mafia: power companies, vendors, and testers

Document-forging Doosan was just the tip of the Korean nuclear corruption iceberg.

It’s different stateside, right? San Onofre 2 and 3 Oh, wait: U.S. NRC is refusing to supply Congress with safety documents related to the closing of San Onofre. But Plant Vogtle is much safer, right? Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning told us so. Of course, he also told us Kemper Coal would come in on budget, and now SO is writing off $611 million after taxes. But that bad concrete pour, the misplaced reactor vessel, the leaking tritium; those are all flukes, right? Meanwhile, solar panels don’t leak tritium, and if you misplace one, you only lose money, not risk lives.

By Choe Sang-Hun in NY Times yesterday, Scandal in South Korea Over Nuclear Revelations,

Korean nuclear reactor Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.

The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.

Worse yet, investigators discovered that the questionable components are installed in 14 of South Korea’s 23 nuclear power plants. The country has already shuttered three of those reactors temporarily because the questionable parts used there were important, and more closings could follow as investigators wade through more than 120,000 test certificates filed over the past decade to see if more may have been falsified.

What about those questionable Westinghouse components in at least six U.S. reactors?

Does this sound familiar?

“In the past 30 years, our nuclear energy industry has become an increasingly closed community that emphasized its specialty in dealing with nuclear materials and yet allowed little oversight and intervention,” the government’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a recent report to lawmakers. “It spawned a litany of corruption, an opaque system and a business practice replete with complacency.”

The Georgia legislature’s idea of oversight was to pass a law letting Georgia Power charge customers for years for electricity they’re not getting from Plant Vogtle, including continuing to charge even if it’s cancelled. GA PSC’s idea of oversight has been to rubberstamp those cost overruns, resulting in re-affirmed bond ratings.

Plant Vogtle GA PSC is holding hearings right now in which it could act like the Public Service Commission and cap cost overruns on Plant Vogtle, or even end that boondoggle. Even SO CEO Tom Fanning noted in Friday’s earnings call that “The most dominant thing is what’s going to happen with Georgia.” It’s time for GA PSC to stop putting lipstick on that pig and do something about it. They just proved they could buck Georgia Power about solar power. Now it’s the big time: deal with the boondoggle!

And it is Southern Company’s three-legged nuclear regulatory-capture stool for Plant Vogtle that lets Southern Company deploy its “great big huge scale” equipment with all those crony contractors like Westinghouse. Which is the kind of situation that Korea has finally decided to fix. How about we fix it here in Georgia before it gets worse?

-jsq

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