Inquiry into fake safety documents is extended

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South Korea has widened an inquiry into how thousands of parts for its nuclear reactors were supplied using forged safety documents, with regulators set to inspect all 23 of the country’s facilities.

Two reactors remained shut yesterday, and five others are closed for maintenance, or through other glitches, raising the prospect of winter power shortages. The nuclear industry supplies close to a third of South Korea’s electricity.

Authorities have stressed that the parts – including fuses, switches and heat sensors – are non-critical, and there is no safety risk.

Kim Joong-kyum, president and chief executive of power utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), which owns the operator of the nation’s nuclear plants, has tendered his resignation for what Kepco officials said were “personal reasons”.

The closure of the two reactors in Yeonggwang county, 180 miles south-west of the capital, Seoul, and concerns of more widespread potential problems with a large and growing nuclear programme, come after last year’s nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan.

“Following Fukushima, our residents have become more and more concerned about safety levels at the reactor,” said Na Seung-man, who chairs the local council in Yeonggwang.

South Korea’s Nuclear Safety & Security Commission said it set up a team investigators to inspect all the country’s reactors to see if they were supplied with parts with forged certificates.

The commission said it also plans to introduce measures to improve supply systems, quality controls and external auditing.

Eight firms submitted 60 false certificates to cover more than 7,000 parts used in the two reactors between 2003 and 2012.

Public support for nuclear power remains strong in South Korea, and Seoul had planned to have added 11 reactors by 2024.