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Nuclear control tower plan triggers concerns

Controversy is rising over a plan to set up a nuclear control organization after President Park Geun-hye instructed the Cabinet to come up with measures to boost authority over the local nuclear industry.

“The Industry Ministry, which is the key department in charge of nuclear issues, currently has little regulatory authority over the related public organizations,” the president said in the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

She thus demanded that the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, and the Board of Audit and Inspection form a joint committee, under the lead of the Industry Ministry.

Objections were raised, however, on her instruction as it went against the fundamental policy of the International Atomic Energy Agency that countries should separate the promotion and regulation functions for nuclear facilities.

The Industry Ministry is the leading player in the local nuclear industry, incorporating related organizations such as the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation and KEPCO Engineering & Construction.

To prevent monopolization and corruption, the former Lee Myung-bak administration had classified the NSSC as a presidential body, separating it from the ministry, but Park has been reluctant to follow such precedent.

“The president meant to clarify the matter of responsibility, should a flaw be found in nuclear facilities,” said Lee Jung-hyun, Park’s senior secretary for public relations.

“So far, the numerous related organizations have been neglecting their respective roles, putting the blame on others.”

Despite the president’s intention to unify the communication channels, her words caused a sense of alert in nuclear circles.

“The idea of deploying regulatory bodies under the wing of the key promotion body will only boost the internal corruption of the nuclear industry,” said Rep. Kim Je-nam, lawmaker of the minority Progressive Justice Party and member of the parliamentary trade committee.

“The nuclear safety watchdog should, at all costs, be granted independent supervisory authority and classified as a presidential body.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (
Korea Herald Youtube