[Mediatoday] 2018-03-22 Citizens Monitoring Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant in Yeonggwang

(Opinion) Citizens should participate and share information in the operation of nuclear power plants

Lee Won Young (Professor, The University of Suwon) March 22, 2018

<Original Korean Article>


On March 13, the First ‘Life Road Sarangbang Discussion Meeting’ held to remember the seventh anniversary of Fukushima nuclear accident at Buddhist Women’s Development Institute.

Lee Ha Young (Vice-Chairman of Hanbit NPP Supervisory Committee for Environment Radiation & Safety) and Lee Jeong Yoon (Nuclear engineer, Nuclear Safety and Future representative) participated in the discussion on the topic of ‘Citizens Monitoring Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant in Yeonggwang’.

This discussion sought to find the way to monitor the safety of nuclear power plants properly and to prevent the risk through the case of Hanbit NPP which is a domestic NPP being directly monitored by citizens.

[Related article: BTN News] Citizens Monitoring Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant

The moderator was Lee Won Young, a professor at the University of Suwon. He started a pilgrimage to Rome from Seoul in May last year, but had to stop the pilgrimage for a while due to the process of returning to the University.

He said there had been earthquakes in the world for ten months during the pilgrimage which caused a debate about finding ways to safely dispose of 450 nuclear power plants around the world.

BeopEung Buddhist monk who is director of Buddhist Social Policy Research and one of the 100 Supporting members of Life Road proposed that shutting down the NPPs are the only viable a long-term solution and the immediate task is to prevent safety accidents.

He emphasized that it is important for the citizens to go in, see, hear, and share information on the operation of nuclear power plants.


▲ BTN News March 14. News Clipping.

During the discussion which lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes, Lee Ha Young, Vice Chairman of the Hanbit NPP Supervisory Committee for Environment Radiation & Safety, talked about the history of the establishment of the Supervisory Committee and the problems and surveillance of the Hanbit NPP.

He explained that he started the supervisory committee in an aim to make a nuclear-free society in Yeonggwang after the 40-year legal lifespan of NPPs through taking on small roles in the government sector in monitoring NPPs, eliminating new nuclear power plants, and keep power plants safe.

And one of the hardest things, he said, is the following:

“In fact, on October 17, 2014, radioactive materials leaked because of a small sharp chip punctured the pipe due to the force of the flow. It actually leaked. It was a terrible situation. Residents demanded that the nuclear power plant should be turned on only after removing 34 foreign objects, but they did not listen. … When we said to stop, the government is not listen because our demand had no legally binding force.”

Then he talked about how he found an absurd and terrible problem while doing a safety check of Unit 6.

“When constructing the reactor pressure vessel, it is cylindrical, so we welded it and attach the three sides of the cylinder at 120 degree intervals to make a 360 degree cylinder. Then there are three welded parts. But, actually, Westinghouse in the United States gave us two sides of the cylinder at 180 degree. However, when people see that there are 3 parts on the design plan, they check for the wrong spot when they do periodic check of welded parts. For 30 years. People did not inspect the exact place of welding (actually 0 ° and 180 ° of the cylinder). Instead they tested the positions of 120 and 240 degrees.”

Vice-chairman Lee said at the end of the discussion that the start of the no-nukes is to protect the people safely.

“Nuclear power plants are in the field like in Yeonggwang or Kori. It is not in the National Assembly, nor in the Blue House, nor in the Ministry of Trade Industry and Energy, nor in the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. They are holding microphones on the table and writing, but the people who are actually exposed to various dangers are local people. Then safety is there.”

Lee Jeong Yoon, who worked as a nuclear engineer with the Hanbit NPP Supervisory Committee since 2013, introduced institutional and technical problems.

Lee Jeong Yoon has been doing engineering for 30 years in the nuclear energy industry. When the nuclear equipment parts forgery and alteration happened in South Korea, he saw that the government only took superficial measures. So, he started to work as a nuclear specialist in the third sector, thinking that there should be someone to talk properly.

“The minister came to the site and said, “Thank you for allowing the reactivation of the nuclear power plant. If you want something let me know.” At that time, the people did not ask for money. We said we just wanted to monitor the NPP because we do not know what is going on behind the fence. People in the Yeonggwang area are a lot different from people in the other areas. People in the other areas ask for money or ask to build a seniors’ hall. But, these people wanted to go in and monitor it. I went and talked with them, and then I said I would do it and do my best.”

Lee Jeong Yoon praised the will of the residents of the Yeonggwang area and said that there were many good results.


▲ Hanbit NPP located in Hongnong-eup, Yeonggwang-gun, Jeollanam-do. (source of the photograph – Yeonggwang-gun Cultural Tourism Website)

“When performing maintenance, you should check the bulletin board contents to see who the quality inspector is and the contact information frequently. When the citizens went and watched, they did not see not even one quality inspector there. So, the people told me why there is no quality inspection here. … The next time they visited there was a guy wearing a hat that said QS (Quality Safety) walking around. So, we know that the presence of citizens in the field is a huge stimulus for these people.”

He also said the governmental system should be more transparent and the organization responsible for safety and surveillance should be independent as in the case of Germany.

“There is a technical inspection agency called TUEV in Germany like KINS in Korea. TUEV is to receive reports of quality inspections from authorized inspection agencies. They make their own contracts.

In South Korea, on the other hand, KHNP (Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power) orders quality inspection. And they get a report. Then, the result is more likely to come out according to what the owner KHNP wants. So, independence is weak.”

Park Eung Seop, director of the monitoring center, who attended the discussion, said that the role of the whistle-blower is very important.

“There was a case of welding with materials other than ‘Inconel 690’ because ‘Inconel 690’ has poor weldability. It was reported anonymously. So, we went into the power plant and asked if there was a story like this and we found out it was true. They said it was not at first. However, when they look at the situation and the contents, it is a fairly realistic report. So, Doosan and KHNP looked through the data and admitted in 3 days. … In the past there was no place for them to report to anyone. One could report it to the press, but the press has no experts. However, our private monitoring organizations are civilian as well as private, but we have been working for decades and it is not professional as a group of engineers, but they are quite capable of systematically understanding in some areas.”

Lee Ha Young said, “I went to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission because of the forged and falsified parts. Lee Eun Cheol, director of Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, says there is no way to deal with it. This is because the quality control is carried out by the Ministry of Industry, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission is not in charge. So, even if it raises a problem, it cannot solve the problem properly. It is true that the nuclear surveillance commission is independent of regulation as it is at present. It is correct for the Nuclear Safety Commission to make regulations independently as it is now. But if it is in this state, I think that there should be a separate monitoring system of the National Assembly. I saw it in France too. I think we need it. At present, we do not have the ability to check the absolute power of the Nuclear Safety Commission.

And secondly, the central government is regulating independently because of the national affairs. In fact, nuclear power plants are in the local. However, the local government do not have any authority in case of an accident. First and foremost, I think that local government should have some authority as self-help means to protect their inhabitants. Authority is the authority of regulation. But the Nuclear Safety Commission does not want to give up its regulatory authority. I think that’s a serious problem.”

He emphasized the role of the National Assembly and the authority of the head of the local government.

At the end of the discussion, the audience gave a variety of opinions on the need for a transition to NPP free future, a road map for energy independence, and public awareness of NPP accidents that destroyed lives or how citizens protected lives from the NPPs.

The Sarangbang discussion will be held once a month as part of the efforts to promote the New Silk Road for Life and No-Nukes. On April 26, we will hold an interim briefing session to discuss the progress of the pilgrimage route and the World Charter on New Silk Road for Life and No-Nukes at W stage in Seosomun-dong.

Categories: Event, Media Reports

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