One of the defining factors of the nuclear industry is its refusal to learn the lessons of the past. It's built a lousy reputation for trust and transparency and public confidence in the industry has been massively dented by repeated scandals and accidents.
South Korea is a prime example.
Last year, the Seoul government closed two nuclear reactors because “thousands of substandard parts” for them “had been supplied with fake warranties for over 10 years.” The scandal saw engineers and suppliers sent to prison.
So, logically speaking, rigorous safety checks must have been put in place since then to prevent a repeat incident, right? Wrong.
Two more nuclear reactors in South Korea were shutdown on Tuesday and the scheduled start of two others was delayed. Why? Because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that “control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test.”
These control cables are used to send electronic signals to a reactor’s control system in the event of an accident. Clearly then, they need to be in good order.
But someone, or some people, certified them as safe even though these vital components had failed safety tests. This is terrifying and it took an anonymous whistleblower to bring it to light.
After last year’s substandard parts scandal, the South Korean government and nuclear authorities should have been making more stringent safety checks. What else is waiting to be discovered?
But this, it seems, is business as usual for the nuclear industry. We see these types of scandals time and time again. For 60 years nuclear power has had our money, resources and safety in its hands and we’ve had little in return but empty promises, lies and scandal.
This is why Greenpeace says reactor designers and builders and other players in the nuclear industry, not just the operators, should be made responsible for their mistakes. Right now, governments have a protection scheme that shields the nuclear industry from responsibility – a responsibility that many companies simply disregard.
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It’s time to switch off nuclear power and look to renewables. The wind and solar energy industries don’t deceive us or treat our safety in such a casual way. Let's put our faith in an Energy Revolution instead.
(Image: Samcheok villagers participate in a demonstration to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power plant in their community, in Samcheok, 192km from Seoul. 04/28/2013 © Jean Chung / Greenpeace)