Indictments for South Korea forgery scandal

10 October 2013

One hundred people have been indicted for their part in falsifying safety documents affecting South Korean nuclear power plants, the country's government has announced.

Shin Wolsong 2 recabling (KHNP)_460
Recabling work under way at Shin Wolsong 2 (Image: KHNP)

A statement released through the South Korean prime minister's Office confirmed that a former chief executive at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) and a vice president at Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) are amongst those indicted. The statement did not identify those concerned by name.

According to the government's policy coordination ministry, 277 out of 22,000 documents of tests on components at 20 reactors were found to be forged. Of 218,000 documents examined for a further eight units, including five under construction, a total of 2010 were found to be falsified.

The scandal of the forged quality control certificates hit the news in November 2012, when South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced that state-owned KHNP had allegedly been supplied with falsely-certified parts for at least five of its 23 nuclear reactors. The two most affected units, Yonggwang 5 and 6 (since renamed Hanbit 5 and 6), were taken off line for the parts to be replaced. The other affected units, Yonngwang (Hanbit) 3 and 4 and Ulchin (now Hanul) 3, were able to continue in operation during replacement work. The parts were not reported to be safety-critical.

Korea's problems were further compounded in May 2013 when it was discovered that safety-related control cabling with forged documentation had been installed at four of KHNP's reactors at Shin Kori and Shin Wolsong. South Korea's national nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC), immediately ordered KHNP to halt operations at the affected units, including the newly completed Shin Wolsong 2 which was at the time awaiting approval to start commercial operation, until the cabling could be replaced.

With several of its reactors off line for maintenance as well as those sidelined because of the data falsification issues, the country found itself struggling to meet electricity demand as summer temperatures peaked. Nuclear provides one third of the country's electricity.

In late September, new KHNP CEO Cho Seok issued a public apology and announced a three-pronged reformation of corporate culture in efforts to regain public support. "Our domestic nuclear project is facing the utmost crisis," he said, saying that public trust had "hit the ground" because of the Fukushima accident of 2011 and the corruption issues in the Korean nuclear industry. Work is progressing at the affected plants to replace the parts and bring them back on line.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News