Posts Tagged ‘nuclear reactors’

S Korea Nuke plant

There’s a YouTube video in which one boxer tries to punch his opponent, but his glove skids off the other man’s face and he winds up hitting himself just above his own eye.

Players in the nuclear generating industry are distressingly similar to this poor boxer, with one notable exception: there’s no opponent whom they’re slugging away at. Rather, the nuclear industry just keeps hauling off and punching itself in the head. Here’s the latest example.

South Korea, with little in the way of natural resources, has twenty-three commercial nuclear power plants that together supply about one third of that nation’s electricity supply requirements. Over the past ten years those plants have had to shut down 128 times because of faulty parts. That’s more than once a month, on average.

Yesterday, the government in Seoul announced that it had indicted 100 people, including a former chief executive of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, one of the country’s biggest electric utilities, for faking certifications of safety equipment used in nuclear reactors.

Yes, you read that right. Safety equipment. For nuclear reactors. Faked.

It’s difficult to believe that anyone could be that shortsighted, but look again at that video of the boxer hitting himself in the head. That symbolizes the current state of the nuclear generation industry.

Imagine that an event like Fukushima happened at one of Korea Hydro & Nuclear’s nuke stations. As the plant’s engineers frantically try to keep the disaster from spiraling out of control, they attempt various operations in the control room, only to find that the power switches, fuses or control cables aren’t working. They aren’t working because the equipment didn’t meet the minimum standards required for use as safety equipment in a nuclear generating station. As bad as Fukushima was, substandard equipment would only have made it worse.

Nuclear power should be part of a varied array of United States generation assets, but as we’ve said before, the industry needs to address and resolve two critical flaws before that type of diversification begins to get back on track: disposal of spent fuel and regulatory capture. Fukushima embodied both of these problems.

If the U.S. nuclear industry discounts these incidents in South Korea, then they are viewing the events through far too narrow and legalistic a perspective. Only the most insular of minds could maintain that Fukushima did not adversely affect the perception of commercial nuclear generation in the United States. As far as the public is concerned, a Japanese nuke, a South Korean nuke and an American nuke are one and the same as far as anything that could go wrong is concerned.

Protesting nukes in South Korea

Protesting nukes in South Korea

And for any project that takes at least 10 years to go from the drawing board to energization, its promoters should understand that perception is reality. The nuclear generation industry needs to broadly clean up its act. Doing so will help it to stop hitting itself in the head.


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