UK-based Lloyd’s Register has won a $10.6 million contract to support the South Korean nuclear industry’s commitment to best-practice, safety and risk management.

Under the two-year agreement, Lloyd’s will provide Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd., (KHNP) with independent verification services to assess their nuclear safety equipment.

The contract follows the discovery in May 2013 that safety-related cabling with falsified documentation had been installed at four Korean reactors. The nuclear regulatory body in Korea stopped the operation of the plants while they assessed the implications of the findings.

The work by Lloyd’s Register will strengthen KHNP’s quality assurance and safety programme for the prevention of counterfeit and fraudulent documents and substandard equipment. However, executives suggest that the contract could also have wider significance.

As important as the Korean domestic industry is its developing export market and ambitions. Korea won its first export contract from the UAE in 2009 and has ambitions to export up to 80 reactors by 2030."They want to make sure that their name is not being dragged down by the recent events," Professor Mamdouh El-Shanawany, VP Nuclear, from Lloyd’s Register told NEI in an interview, 5 November.

KHNP, which operates 23 nuclear reactors in South Korea, said that safety is its "number one priority."

Lloyd’s Register’s work falls into three main areas: environmental qualification; quality assurance; and verification of the characteristics of commercial-grade item dedication, El-Shanawany said.

Put more simply, it involves re-checking and verifying calculations, looking at the management systems and controls that were in place and at the traceability of the quality assurance documentation for components and system parts, explained Professor Richard Clegg, MD of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and former global nuclear director for Lloyd’s Register.

"When you are building large, capital intensive nuclear plants the supply chain is truly global," Clegg said. As a result, it can be "extremely complicated" for the client/customer to have confidence that components have been built as specified in the contract.

Counterfeiting is a concern around the world, as highlighted by US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman Allison M. Macfarlane in a speech on 5 November:

"While we have no recent evidence of suspect parts being used in US nuclear installations, we know from our collaborative work with other US federal agencies that counterfeiting is a concern for other industries, particularly for high-tech equipment like circuit boards and computer chips. What we’re hearing is that it’s becoming harder to spot the fakes."

"When you consider that the next generation of nuclear plants, being built all over the world including our three new reactors here, use components manufactured in many different countries, you get an appreciation for why this is an important issue to follow."

Independent assurance provides confidence that the risks to do with schedule, safety and quality have been properly identified and are being controlled and managed.

The UK and Lloyd’s are in a "unique position" to provide these services because they are not involved in any of the reactor designs that are being marketed and thus are "truly independent," El-Shanawany told NEI.

Photo: South Korea’s Wolsong nuclear plant (Source: KHNP)