[뉴욕타임즈]“한국, 원전 비리 대가 치를것”
뉴시스 2013년 8월4일자 기사
【뉴욕=뉴시스】노창현 특파원 = 뉴욕 타임스가 한국의 원전 비리를 대대적으로 보도했다.
뉴욕 타임스는 3일 A섹션 6면에 ‘한국 원자력 폭로 스캔들’ 제하의 기사를 통해 최근 원전 건설을 둘러싼 공기업과 공급업체, 검증 업무를 다루는 시험기관 등의 구조적인 비리를 집중 조명했다. 타임스는 이에 앞서 온라인판 프런트면에 기사를 올려 독자들의 시선을 끌었다.
뉴욕 타임스는 “한국은 2011년 후쿠시마(福島) 원전의 재앙을 겪은 일본과 비슷한 수준으로 원자력 발전소를 건설하는 등 전력 생산의 3분의 1을 원전에 의존하고 있다”면서 “최근 원전 핵심 설비에 대한 허위 안전검사 비리가 눈덩이처럼 커지고 있다”고 전했다.
한국이 일본처럼 원전의 안전성을 경시한 ‘결탁 문화’가 특히 문제가 되고 있으며 최근 수 주 간 공급업체와 시험기관 간의 유착 구조는 마피아에 비견되는 상황이라고 비꼬았다.
지난 4월 익명의 제보를 통해 시작된 원전 비리 수사에서 시험기관이 엉터리 안전검사를 하고 핵발전소를 설계한 공기업의 일부 임원진은 조잡한 설비들을 승인하는 대가로 뇌물을 받은 사실이 밝혀졌다.
타임스는 “더 큰 문제는 안전에 의문성이 제기된 부품들이 23개 핵발전소 중 13곳에 설치된 것”이라면서 “이미 3곳의 원전이 중요 부품의 문제점으로 가동을 멈췄고 지난 10년 간 발급된 12만 개 이상의 시험 성적서에 대한 허위 여부를 조사하고 있다”고 덧붙였다.
전력난으로 인해 한국 정부는 찜통더위의 여름에도 전력 소비를 줄이자는 캠페인을 독려하고 있다. 대학생들은 푹푹 찌는 도서관을 피해 시원한 인터넷 카페로 향하고 주요 기업들도 에어콘을 끄고 있다.
비판론자들은 한국의 원전산업에 많은 경고의 신호들이 있었다고 말한다. 지난해 정부는 두 개의 원자로를 일시 폐쇄했다. 공급업자들이 10여년 간 1만개 이상의 부품들에 관한 검사증명서들을 허위로 받은 혐의로 기소된 이후였다. 그러나 한국 정부는 문제의 부품들이 필수적인 것은 아니라고 강조했다.
이번엔 사고 시 비상 가동 신호를 보내는 제어케이블 등 더 중요한 부품들에 관한 서류가 위조된 사실이 드러났다. 한양대 김용수 원자력공학과 교수는 “이건 단순한 실수나 태만이 아니다. 우리 원전산업의 면역체계에 관해 심각한 의문이 제기됐다”고 지적했다.
타임스는 아직 조사가 진행 중이지만 원전 비리의 근본 원인을 파악하기엔 충분하다고 말했다. 일본의 경우, 여러 관련업체들의 유착에 대한 허술한 감독이 문제가 된 반면, 고도로 중앙집중화된 한국은 한국전력공사(KEPCO)의 두 개 자회사인 한국수력원자력(Korea Hydro)과 한국전력기술(Kepco E&C)이 맡아 결탁의 가능성이 그만큼 크다는 것이다,
국회에 제출된 자료에 의하면 수 년 간 두 자회사의 임원들은 퇴직 후 공급업체와 시험기관 혹은 투자한 회사에 취업을 한 것으로 나타났다.
타임스는 “관계자들의 학연과 지연은 정경유착이라는 부패의 사슬을 더욱 견고하게 만들고 다양한 산업에서 뇌물이 작용하도록 기름을 치는 관계가 되고 있다”고 지적했다. 지난 30년 간 한국의 원전산업은 핵물질을 다루는 특수성으로 인해 이러한 유착이 지속적으로 진행돼 “부패의 알을 낳는 시스템이 됐다는 것이다.
문제는 시험 증명서만이 아니다. 한수원의 한 임원 집에서 수억원의 현금 상자들이 발견돼 이를 추적한 결과 부품 공급 계약을 따기 위해 관련업체가 수 억 원의 뇌물을 제공한 사실도 추가로 드러났다.
지난 6월 한수원과 한국전력기술은 정경유착의 부패를 근절하기 위해 소속 임직원이 공급업체 주식을 사거나 은퇴 후 관련업체에 취업하는 행위를 금지하는 등 자체 정화 조치를 약속했다. 또한 정부도 두 자회사 최고위층을 경질하고 은퇴자들의 관련 회사 취업을 금지시키는 규제 강화를 약속했다.
일부 비판가들은 보통의 한국인들도 의식의 변화를 꾀해야 한다고 목소리를 높인다. 한국환경운동연합의 한 관계자는 “그동안 한국인들은 원자력발전소의 안전 문제에 눈을 감고 값싼 전기를 마구 써댔다. 결국 비싼 대가를 치르게 될 것”이라고 말했다
아래는 뉴욕타임즈 기사 원문입니다.
Scandal in South Korea Over Nuclear Revelations
By CHOE SANG-HUN
Now, a snowballing scandal in South Korea about bribery and faked safety tests for critical plant equipment has highlighted yet another similarity: experts say both countries’ nuclear programs suffer from a culture of collusion that has undermined their safety. Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.
The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.
Worse yet, investigators discovered that the questionable components are installed in 14 of South Korea’s 23 nuclear power plants. The country has already shuttered three of those reactors temporarily because the questionable parts used there were important, and more closings could follow as investigators wade through more than 120,000 test certificates filed over the past decade to see if more may have been falsified.
In a further indication of the possible breadth of the problems, prosecutors recently raided the offices of 30 more suppliers suspected of also providing parts with faked quality certificates and said they would investigate other testing companies.
“What has been revealed so far may be the tip of an iceberg,” said Kune Y. Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University.
With each new revelation, South Koreans — who, like the Japanese, had grown to believe their leaders’ soothing claims about nuclear safety — have become more jittery. Safety is the biggest concern, but the scandals have also caused economic worries. At a time of slowing growth, the government had loudly promoted its plans to become a major builder of nuclear power plants abroad.
The scandal, Professor Suh said, “makes it difficult to continue claiming to build reliable nuclear power plants cheaply.”
South Koreans say they are already suffering for the industry’s sins. The closing of the three reactors, in addition to another three offline for scheduled maintenance, has led the country’s leaders to order a nationwide energy-saving campaign in the middle of a particularly muggy summer. At university campuses, students have deserted the libraries for cooler Internet cafes, and major corporations have turned down air-conditioning.
President Park Geun-hye has kept off her own air-conditioning even when she hosted foreign guests, including Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook. And some entrepreneurs have capitalized on the troubles, selling “cool scarves” made of a special fabric that, after being dipped in water, keeps wearers cool for hours. But the modeling and creativity have not stopped the grousing, or alleviated anger at the industry.
Critics of South Korea’s nuclear industry say there were plenty of warning signs.
Last year, the government was forced to shut down two reactors temporarily after it learned that parts suppliers — some of whom were later convicted — had fabricated the safety-test certificates for more than 10,000 components over 10 years. But the government emphasized at the time that those parts were “nonessential” items and that the industry was otherwise sound.
As it turned out, the problems went much deeper.
The investigation that began this spring suggested that the oversight within the supply chain may also be more deeply compromised. A company that was supposed to test reactor parts skipped portions of the exams, doctored test data or even issued safety certificates for parts that failed its tests, according to government investigators. And this time the parts involved included more important items. Among the parts that failed the tests were cables used to send signals to activate emergency measures in an accident.
“This is not a simple negligence or mistake; this is a deliberate fabrication by those who were supposed to safeguard the reliability of parts,” said Kim Yong-soo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Hanyang University in Seoul. “It raises serious questions about the immune system of our nuclear power industry.”
Although much remains unclear with the investigations under way, experts say they know enough to pinpoint the underlying cause of the scandal: an industry that is even more highly centralized than Japan’s, with poor oversight on the relations among the major players.
While Japan has a small number of utilities that provide nuclear power, South Korea has just one: the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation, or Kepco. One of its subsidiaries, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, runs all the plants. Another, Kepco Engineering & Construction, designs them and is tasked with inspecting parts from suppliers and vetting the safety certificates they include from testing companies.
Over the years, senior retirees from the two subsidiaries have found jobs with parts suppliers and testing companies or invested in them, according to industry data submitted to the National Assembly.
In a culture where honoring personal ties is often considered more important than following regulations, the porous borders among the members of the supply chain resulted in what government officials and industry experts call an “entrenched chain of corruption.” Important school and hometown connections among the groups further cemented the collusive links, they said. And then there is the lure of bribery, which has often lubricated relationships between South Korean parts suppliers and their buyers in various industries.
“In the past 30 years, our nuclear energy industry has become an increasingly closed community that emphasized its specialty in dealing with nuclear materials and yet allowed little oversight and intervention,” the government’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a recent report to lawmakers. “It spawned a litany of corruption, an opaque system and a business practice replete with complacency.”
In the current scandal, Korea Hydro officials are accused of ordering Kepco E & C to ignore faked certificates from the testing firm Saehan Total Engineering Provider Company. The testing company’s top officials and investors included current and former employees from Kepco E & C or their family members. (Although the company was called for comment several times in recent days, no one picked up the main line.)
But the problems appear to go beyond testing. At the home of one of the Korea Hydro officials, investigators found boxes of cash amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. Investigators tracing the origin of the money recently arrested officials of Hyundai Heavy Industries, a major parts supplier, on bribery charges. Prosecutors said the money was meant to ensure contracts for Hyundai Heavy and appeared not to be part of the scandal over testing certificates.
In a statement jointly issued in June, Korea Hydro, Kepco E & C and two other state-financed nuclear industry companies promised “self-purification measures.” To “root out corruption arising from collusive ties,” they said they would make it mandatory for senior officials to make public their personal assets, ban all employees from buying stocks in suppliers or getting jobs there after retirement, and reduce the retirement package benefits for those fired for corruption.
Amid a public uproar, the government fired the heads of both the Kepco subsidiaries. It also promised to enact new laws and tighten regulations to ban retirees from the two subsidiaries from getting jobs at suppliers and test agencies.
Political opposition parties, which control some seats on the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission — the top nuclear watchdog, which has long been criticized as being too cozy with the industry — recently added two critics of nuclear power to the regulatory group. But many worry the changes, and promised changes, will not be enough.
After last year’s scandal, the government had vowed to keep parts suppliers found to have falsified documents from bidding again for 10 years. But in February, Korea Hydro imposed only a six-month penalty for such suppliers. And nuclear opponents say that more fundamental changes are needed in the regulatory system, pointing out that one of the government’s main regulating arms, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, gets 60 percent of its annual budget from Korea Hydro.
Some go further, saying ordinary South Koreans will have to change their own expectations before real change can occur.
The nuclear industry, they say, was built around the notion that South Korea’s industries needed inexpensive power, leading Kepco to build plants quickly and operate them cheaply.
“South Koreans have guzzled cheap electricity while turning a blind eye to the safety concerns of their nuclear power plants,” said Yang Lee Won-young, a leader at the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement. “They may end up paying dearly.”