By Kim Da-ye
Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based international energy and nuclear policy consultant, was startled by the extent the “top level decision makers” in the Korean government and nuclear industry he met were “disconnected from the international industrial reality.”
“This lack of reality check is possibly the most frightening of the characteristics of this industry. Nuclear power has been on the decline for a long time,” said Schneider, the founder and author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, in an email interview with The Korea Times’ Business Focus.
The consultant visited Seoul last year to present the yearly report in a seminar organized jointly by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Korean government and the local nuclear industry.
Korea has been bullish on nuclear energy. The government has advocated nuclear power as a source of clean energy and pushed forward its expansion in the country’s energy portfolio. It strongly promoted exports of nuclear power plants, arguing it is a highly profitable business.
The ambitions at home and abroad were, however, hit by two disgraceful events. Three nuclear reactors were shut down for the long term after a whistleblower’s report led to the finding that control cables that send signals to the reactor’s control system in case of an accident did not pass the quality test but were still used in the reactors with fake certificates. Only six months ago, two reactors in Younggwang Nuclear Power Plant were suspended because thousands of parts were found to have been supplied with fake warranties.
Although the government vowed to get rid of corruption and improve the lack of transparency in the domestic nuclear energy industry, it hardly touched on deeper issues including if Korea should remain as dependent on nuclear energy as it is now and if the country has competitiveness as a nuclear power plant exporter at all.
Business Focus talked to five international nuclear energy experts for their views on the current scandal, possible measures and Korea’s status in the international nuclear energy industry. The experts, who come from diverse backgrounds, differ on their opinions about nuclear energy but agreed on two things — Korea’s nuclear energy industry should become more transparent, and it isn’t easy to make money in the nuclear energy export market.
’More transparency necessary’
By Kim Da-ye
Business Focus interviewed five leading experts on the subject of nuclear energy and policy following a recent industry scandal in which unauthorized parts were found to have been used in safety devices in nuclear reactors and about Korea’s position in the context of the global nuclear energy industry.
The interviewees are Chris Gadomski, lead analyst on nuclear energy issues at Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Mark Hibbs, senior associate in the nuclear policy program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dave Lochbaum, director of nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Jim Riccio, nuclear analyst at the anti-nuclear energy advocate group Greenpeace; and Mycle Schneider, international energy and nuclear policy consultant; and .
The interviews were conducted individually via email or on the phone and have been compiled. The questions and answers have been edited.