President Moon Jae-in’s policy to phase out nuclear energy from Korea’s power planning is sparking concerns over leaks in core technologies for nuclear reactors, industry analysts said Tuesday.
The analysts said the risks of a further nuclear power technology leak are growing because an increasing number of nuclear scientists and engineers at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and its partner firms are seeking to move to foreign companies amid the Moon administration’s anti-nuclear campaign.
“After the Moon government’s post-nuclear policy, nearly 300 officials left KHNP or other nuclear power firms and a significant number of them are suspected to have moved to foreign nuclear power firms already,” said Lee Duck-hwan, a professor at Sogang University.
According to Rep. Jung You-sub of the Liberty Korea Party, 265 KHNP and KEPCO E&C, a nuclear reactor developing subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), have left their jobs since 2017, when the Moon administration kicked off its post-nuclear policy.
“This means that risks of a technology leak have grown significantly as the domestic nuclear engineering industry collapses, and the only option for Korea to prevent such leaks is hoping former KHNP personnel will not leak the information,” Lee said.
Lee’s remarks came after reports that the country’s spy agency is investigating an allegation that the core technologies of a nuclear reactor developed by KHNP were leaked to rivals based in the UAE and the U.S. by a former KHNP employee.
According to government officials, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission requested the National Intelligence Service to investigate the suspected leak of the core technologies of the APR 1400, a reactor developed by KHNP and exported to UAE’s Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.
Reportedly, the spy agency suspects a former senior official at KHNP who moved to the UAE’s Nawah Energy Company, which will operate the reactors at the plant, has handed over several technologies including the APR 1400 blueprint and Nuclear Application Programs (NAPS) to the UAE. The technologies were allegedly also leaked to Western Service Cooperation of the U.S. later.
The NAPS diagnoses a reactor’s operation and tells the operator whether the reactor is functioning normally. KEPCO E&C developed the program using up to 200 billion won of state funds.
The suspected leak is expected to deal a heavy blow to the KHNP and other Korean firms’ bid to win a long-term maintenance deal of the UAE power plant, which is estimated to be worth 3 trillion won.
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the parent company of Nawah, has recently stripped the KHNP of exclusive status in bidding for the long-term maintenance deal and is considering breaking down the deal for multiple players, in an apparent fallout of the Moon government’s post-nuclear policy.
Though KHNP explained that it has provided NAPS to the UAE and Western Service Cooperation in part of deals with the UAE, but experts said “this is just the beginning.”
“Imagine that nuclear power firms from France or China are maintaining the Barakah plant in turns,” Lee said. “To maintain the facility, there is no possible way but to share the blueprint of APR 1400 with those firms, which is giving away technology which Korea put a huge amount of money and effort into developing.”
Source: The Korean Times