Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company Executive resigns after criticisms over perceived cover-ups

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Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. chief executive Kim Jong-shin stepped down this week after mounting criticism over recent power outages and cover-up attempts an atomic plant.

In March 2012, KHNP was forced to admit its safety culture had been tarnished by a string of breakdowns of reactors, and being found to have tried covering up a power cut at a reactor in Busan.

Last month, KHNP announced a power failure had occurred at the Kori plant on March 12, a day after the first anniversary of Fukushima. The 12- minute power loss occurred on Feb. 9 and sent the core temperature to 58.3 degrees Celsius (137 degrees Fahrenheit) from 36.9 degrees, according to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

Korea Hydro didn’t report the blackout and deleted it from its records before an outside inquiry discovered it, the committee said last month.

“I felt a sense of shame because nuclear energy should be accompanied by safety and transparency,” Kim said at a news briefing on March 15th.   “I will deal with the incident in strict fairness and make utmost efforts to prevent it from reoccurring.”

Later that month on March 23rd, the utility said it has been stepping up its efforts to boost safety and energy security as the operator of the country’s 23 nuclear power plants, as it hosted a Nuclear Industry summit in Seoul.

At the summit Kim said, “We’ve committed all of our energies to raising our standard in nuclear power plant operation.”

However, Kim’s resignation this week came a day after an emergency diesel power generator at an atomic plant in Yeonggwang, South Jeolla Province, was belatedly found to have malfunctioned during a special inspection , which further fueled controversy over another possible attempted cover-up.

The diesel power generator at the Yeonggwang-2 unit stopped a minute and 14 seconds after it was manually started for an examination on March 28, and the governor of Yeonggwang knew about it but did not report it to the public or nongovernmental watchdogs.

“The actual pressure of the engine cooling water was normal, but the switch had malfunctioned,” the KHNP said in a statement, adding that it replaced the switch and completed the test on the generator.

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