After Fukushima: a survey of corruption in the global nuclear power industry.
Much has been written since March 2011 about the extraordinarily complex networks of corruption, collusion, and nepotism that structured what the commission called the "intricate form of 'Regulatory Capture'" created "with the political, bureaucratic, and business circles in perfect coordination" in the five decades since the construction of Japan's first nuclear power plant, Tokai, began in 1959 (National Diet of Japan 2012, 3). Yet, while the level of detailed evidence and analysis in the Kurokawa report and other studies was deeply shocking, glimpses of this "intricate form" had been available for some years, not least in the public history of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) itself, especially in the events of 2002 leading up to the resignation of the company's president (Takemoto 2003). Part of the report's shock value comes from its emphasis on the power of this set of interlocking structures both to suppress damaging evidence and to induce self-censorship by otherwise well-informed media and by professional and academic specialists (Onishi and Belson 2011).
Yet for all of its importance in assigning culpability on the basis of irrefutable evidence in the Japanese case, the report raises a wider set of issues that are not addressed. Before March 2011 Japan's nuclear industry was taken to be an exemplar to the world, and to the global nuclear industry in particular. The Japanese public and its political leaders were not alone in subscribing to what former prime minister Kan Naoto labeled "the myth of nuclear safety."
Was the Japanese situation unique? Are corruption, collusion, and nepotism present in the nuclear industries of other countries that manufacture nuclear reactor technology--and on the same scale and with the same structure? Given the increasing concentration of corporate power in fewer but larger companies, and cross-national ownership of those companies in the global nuclear industry, are there instances of transnationalized corruption, collusion, and nepotism (Secor 2007; Findlay 2010)? Moreover, as the Japanese case reminds us so bluntly, nuclear reactor manufacturing countries are also, or hope to be, nuclear reactor exporting countries (Harlan 2011). How salient is the Japanese picture of nuclear industry corruption to the export activities of those nuclear manufacturing countries? Also, given that most nuclear reactor exports today are to countries with substantial endemic problems of corruption, do the networks of corruption, collusion, and nepotism in countries supplying nuclear technology intersect with the processes of importing nuclear technology? Finally, in all of these cases, what are the safety and human security implications for populations of those countries receiving these technology transfers?
The Independent Investigation Commission report has provided a firm foundation for thinking that these questions are not trivial and that they are likely to lead to disturbing answers in some cases. I cannot address each question in depth in this article but hopefully provide a beginning. The method employed is simple and limited: What public evidence emerged during 2012 and the first half of 2013 that indicated the presence of corrupt practices in the nuclear industries and establishments of nuclear power producing, manufacturing, or importing countries? In some cases, the answer involves corporate activities; in others, the activities of regulatory authorities; and in others, sins of commission or omission by senior government figures. In many cases, allegations made and reported have not as yet reached the point of judicial testing in court and can only be treated as allegations. In others, legally satisfactory proof resulting from prosecution and conviction is available. Corruption, collusion, and nepotism usually are found together, reinforcing each other, but they are not the same thing; most of the reported cases address corruption, rather than all three, in part because collusion and nepotism are often more difficult to document.
In this article I provide the beginning of a firmer understanding of the violations of trust in the global nuclear industry. At a procedural level, I raise questions about the adequacy of global regulation of the nuclear industries of a wide range of countries, but especially in relation to the conditions under which it is safe and appropriate to transfer nuclear reactor technology. The short answer is that global regulation of this matter is almost nonexistent in the form of the limited and selective regulatory powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Beyond that, these instances of violations of trust also permit a reconsideration of public understandings of trust, liability, and consent in relation to nuclear energy systems. Equally, they bear on our understanding of the related concept of risk in relation to consent to energy systems. Both raise the question of how we are to think about mistrust in relation to nuclear energy systems, particularly the place of rational mistrust. More broadly still, trust violations raise issues of how to understand them in the context of democratic politics--which, as the nuclear industry shows so clearly, involves consideration and regulation of risk at transnational and global levels. The issue is one of global democracy.
Country Studies: A Year of Corruption in the Global Nuclear Industry
During the eighteen months from the beginning of 2012 to mid-2013, major corruption incidents occurred in the nuclear power industry in every country currently seeking to export nuclear reactors: the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Russia, France, and China. A number of other countries that operate or plan to have nuclear power plants also had major corruption cases, including Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Pakistan; moreover, serious allegations of corruption were raised in Egypt, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Slovakia, South Africa, and Taiwan. In the Korean case, systemic nuclear industry corruption was found; in Canada, deep corporate corruption within the largest nuclear engineering corporation was one matter, and bribery of nuclear technology consuming countries' senior ministers was another.
In Russia, the issue was persistent, deep-seated, and widespread corruption in state-owned and private nuclear industry companies, with profound implications for the safety of Russian nuclear industry exports. Two cases in nuclear technology importing countries, Lithuania and Bulgaria, revealed large-scale bribery involving government, the nuclear industry, and foreign (US and Russian) companies. Post-Soviet bloc geostrategic energy interests are central to both stories. The profound influence of organized crime in national energy policy, and on a transnational basis, is revealed in the Bulgarian and Russian cases. Suspicions are widespread and allegations common in the cases of India, Taiwan, and Bangladesh, but confirmed evidence remains weak. Due to limitations in space, I concentrate here on three nuclear exporting countries--Korea, Russia, and Canada--and India, a probable but unconfirmed case. (1)
Korea: "Corruption Pervading the Virtual State Monopoly"
South Korea, like Japan, has a large nuclear power program, with twenty-three plants in operation, supplying 30 percent of the country's electricity, and another sixteen reactors scheduled to be built by 2030. Like Japan, Korea has an ambitious plan for nuclear exports that relies on a reputation for high technical and safety standards in the domestic nuclear industry (Stott 2010). Together with pricing and financing incentives, this reputation helped the state-owned monopoly, Korean Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), lead a Korean consortium to win an order for four APR1400 reactors in a deal with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 worth $40 billion (Yeon 2010). But within a year of the Fukushima disaster, it was Korea's turn to be revealed as suffering from deep-seated corruption in its nuclear industry.
The Korean nuclear corruption scandal first broke in April 2012 when prosecutors charged four KHNP executives and an industry lobbyist with bribery (Woo 2012). Suppliers of equipment for KHNP paid approximately $600,000 to the lobbyist to use his influence with the company's senior officials to ensure that KHNP would order from the suppliers concerned. In one example, a KHNP official is alleged to have provided a Korean manufacturer with part of a sealing unit, and its specifications, with the manufacturer then making copies and on-selling it as an Areva product. Separately, KHNP technology managers received kickbacks from equipment suppliers amounting to approximately $150,000 to ensure that the managers recommended the suppliers' products for KHNP procurement (Shin & Kim 2012).
A second round of allegations began in June when a vice president of KHNP was arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes from contractors in order for Kim to pressure local nuclear power plants (NPPs) to order from the contractors. The KHNP vice president, who was identified by prosecutors only as Kim, was a former head of the company's audit office and was also accused of bribing his supervisors to keep quiet about his activities (Yi 2012a). Kim was later alleged to have received $61,000 from two contractors. The case widened in July when prosecutors arrested another KHNP vice president, as well as four senior managers from company headquarters, sixteen manager-level engineers at local NPPs, and nine subcontractors. Prosecutors later said the officials received bribes worth $2.03 million, and the engineers were alleged to have received almost $400,000 from contractors (Park 2012b). According to prosecutors, some of the subcontractors had been supplying "defective goods including engines and pressure gauges for years" (Yi 2012b). The arrests were immediately seen as a threat to Korea's nuclear export ambitions, as President Lee Myung-bak was pushing for further NPP export sales and seeking to assuage post-Fukushima concerns (Kang 2012).
A new dimension of the nuclear scandal erupted in November 2012 when the Korean government announced that five NPPs had been discovered to be using thousands of parts with security certificates that their suppliers had faked. According to Minister of Knowledge Economy Suk-woo Hong, the eight suppliers faked sixty warranties for 234 parts since 2003, supplying 7,682 items worth 820 million won (US$750,000) in total. Of the total, 5,233 parts have actually been used in five of the country's twenty-three nuclear reactors, while nearly 99 percent of them were used in two reactors at the Yeonggwang Nuclear Power Plant, located some 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul. Most of the falsely certified parts were found in the Yeonggwang NPP. Yeonggwang-5 and -6 were taken offline for safety inspections (Yonhap News Agency 2012). The Board of Audit and Inspection investigation into the parts substitution scams reported in December that "8,601 imported components with fake quality certificates were supplied to the plants. Korean companies also supplied 1,555 parts with counterfeit certificates over five years." At first, government sources maintained that none of the parts with faked safety certificates had any direct link to reactors. However, a Board of Audit investigation discovered falsely certified equipment "essential" for a reactor's water cooling system. KHNP admitted the danger but kept the reactors operational (Park 2012c). In early December the Korean government announced an investigation into the KHNP's management and operations of the country's nuclear power stations, with more than sixty government and civilian experts to assist the inquiry.
The corruption and control deficiencies in the Korean nuclear industry had immediate and serious consequences at home and abroad. Public confidence in the safety of nuclear power plunged from 71 percent in January 2010 to around 35 percent by the end of 2012, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, which oversees nuclear policy (Park 2012a). Abroad, Turkey requested a "complete revamping" of Korea's bid for a $20 billion deal for Turkey's second 1200 MWe nuclear power station, a move interpreted as a polite rejection but amounting to an enormous setback for the ambitious nuclear export program (Park 2012d).
Three systemic causes for concern about the Korean nuclear industry brought to wider attention by the corruption scandals are the overworking of Korean reactors compared with their foreign counterparts, the strains imposed in the country's race to fully indigenize Korean nuclear manufacturing by 2010, and the politicization of nuclear power regulation. Korean reactors have a capacity utilization ratio of over 90 percent--compared, for example, with France's 60-75 percent despite the European nation's even greater reliance on nuclear energy (Korea Times 2012).
The possible negative consequences of Korea's haste amid corruption were highlighted by President Lee's visit to the south coast city of Ulchin to celebrate the start of construction of Shin Ulchin-1 and -2, the first nuclear reactors to be built with purely indigenous technology. They are to be completed by 2018 (Kang 2012). KHNP was at the forefront of the implementation of this push for indigenization, announcing in 2010 that to assist its globalization strategy, the company would advance its goal of raising its current nuclear technology independence ratio of 95 percent to "100 percent nuclear technology independence by October 2012" (Yeon 2010).
The third, political source of concern links the industry, its regulatory procedures, and the Korean political system. KHNP received the lowest possible rating in a national audit of fifty-nine state-run companies in 2012. The position of auditor in a Korean state-run company is a perk mainly reserved for political figures associated with the ruling party of the day. During the presidency of Kim Dae-jung, 24 percent of auditors at state-run companies were politicians. That figure increased to 40 percent under President Roh Moo-hyun and to 62 percent under President Lee Myung-bak. Instances of bribery among political-hacks-turned-auditors, who lack the requisite professional capacities that one finds in auditors at state companies such as KHNP, are well documented (Donga-A Ilbo 2012). Such a deeply institutionalized system of patronage can only exist with the awareness and protection of the highest levels in the ruling parties.
The integrity--or lack of it--in the Korean nuclear industry is a matter of great concern. One prosecutor involved in the KHNP investigation said there was "an established chain of corruption and bribery between the state-run company and suppliers." Commenting on the work of the special investigation, the prosecutor said his understanding "is that the murky connections have existed for so long that eliminating the link would be impossible with just a single investigation" (Park 2012b). Without impugning the integrity or diligence of these investigations, the task is a considerable one, involving networks linking the nuclear manufacturers, contractors, supervisory ministries and agencies, and almost certainly political figures. More Korean parallels with the situation in Japan are likely, suggesting the need for much deeper, more prolonged, more diverse, and more transparent inquiry than has been conducted to date.
Russia: Oligarchic Politics, Business, and Organized Crime
As a nuclear weapon state involved in all aspects of the nuclear cycle, with more nuclear power plants under construction than any other country, and with a vigorous reactor export program continuing to grow even after Fukushima, Russia is a particularly important part of the global nuclear industry. Thirty-three reactors in ten nuclear power plants are in operation within Russia. Ten reactors are under construction, more will undergo lifetime extension "large-scale reconstruction," and still others are in planning (Efremov 2012; Schneider, Froggatt, and Hazemann 2012; World Nuclear Association 2013b). Post-Soviet era exported nuclear reactors are operating in China (Tianwan), Iran (Bushehr), and the Ukraine (Khmelnitski-2 and Rovno 4). Two VVER-1000 reactors are close to completion in both China (Tianwan) and India (Kudankulam). Confirmed VVER-1000 NPP exports commencing construction by 2015 include those in Turkey (Akkuyu), Belarus (Ostrovets), Bangladesh (Rooppur), and Vietnam (Ninh Thuan 1). Two reactors under construction for many years in Bulgaria (Belene) have been cancelled (World Nuclear Association 2012). In 2012, the state-owned nuclear conglomerate Rosatom claimed that its signed orders amounted to $50 billion over a ten-year period, double the levels of the prior year (Matlack and Humber 2010).
Russia is notorious for its widespread, deep, and persistent corruption. In comparative terms, Transparency International (TI) ranked Russia at 133 out of 176 countries it surveyed in its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, with an index score (0 being most corrupt and 100 least so) of 28, only slightly ahead of Nigeria and Pakistan (Transparency International 2012). Of the countries TI surveyed in its 2011 Bribe Payers Index, measuring the likelihood companies in a given country would pay bribes in their foreign operations, Russia was the highest (Transparency International 2012). The close connection between corruption in business and politics and organized crime, both within Russia and transnationally, is characteristic of the Russian situation (Smith 2010; Minchev 2013).
According to Russian civil society observers, corruption in the Russian nuclear industry has been responsible for up to 40 percent of domestic nuclear power plant costs, as well as endemic safety problems and noncompliance with an already weak industry regulatory regime (Andreev 2011). Two 2012-2013 Russian corruption cases with international implications epitomized these problems.
In May 2012 the deputy head of the testing department of the Research Institute for Complex Testing of Optoelectronic Devices and Systems (NIIKI OEP), Alexander Murach, was sentenced to three years in jail for selling counterfeit testing equipment used in nuclear power stations. Murach, who was also director of a company named Informtekh, provided fake test results and certification for equipment used to measure vibration in nuclear power plant turbines (Nuclear.RU 2012). While the total value of the fake equipment sales was only $49,000, the potential consequences for nuclear power plant safety were extremely serious. In nuclear power plants, the critical importance of turbine vibration detection equipment is clear from what has been described as the "most serious accident at an Indian nuclear reactor" in March 1994. Two blades at the Narora NPP broke off, causing the turbine to vibrate and leading to a fire that destroyed the secondary cooling systems (Ramana and Kumar 2010).
The second nuclear corruption case in 2012 was more serious still, confirming long-standing civil society and foreign business concerns about State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. This state-owned corporation replaced the former Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom). It has three main directorates--for the nuclear energy complex (Atomenergoprom), for the nuclear weapons complex, and for nuclear radiation and safety--with 250 separate companies and research institutes (Nikitin 2007; Joint Management Unit 2010).
One part of this giant conglomerate at the center of all things nuclear in Russia is ZiO-Podolsk, a manufacturer of steam generators and heat exchangers. This company has supplied every nuclear power facility ever built in Russia as well as many of its NPP exports, including those currently under construction by Atomenergomash's international reactor construction subsidiary Atomstroiproyekt in Bulgaria, China, India, and Iran. A subsidiary of the 100 percent Rosatom-controlled nuclear power plant manufacturer Atomenergomash, ZiO-Podolsk is also supplying the reactor pressure vessel for the BN-800 fast breeder reactor that has been under construction at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station since 1987 (World Nuclear Association 2013b).
In February 2012, following an investigation by the Federal Security Service (FSB, the successor to the KGB) the ZiO-Podolsk procurement director, Sergei Shutov, was arrested and charged with embezzlement of state funds by purchasing cheap low-grade steel, which he passed off as certified higher-grade steel. Shutov worked in collusion with the financial director of a supplier, ATOM-Industriya. According to the FSB investigation, some 2.5 million [euro] (2.5 million euros) worth of "pipe sheets, reactor bottoms and reservoirs" were supplied by ATOM-Industriya to ZiO-Podolsk, including steel for high-pressure heaters at Bulgaria's Kozloduy NPP, yielding an illegal profit of 1 [euro] million (Digges 2012b).
While Russian civil society observers are normally cautious about reports from the FSB, particularly in corruption cases (which have frequently been used against the Putin regime's opponents on the basis of doubtful evidence), Russia's Ekozashchita! (Ecodefense!) argues that in this case there are good grounds for taking the FSB report seriously. Not only does the case make the state-owned conglomerate Rosatom--a favorite of the president--look bad; it strengthens the significance of reports that Chinese nuclear power authorities have complained to Rosatom about more than 3,000 grievances concerning low-quality materials supplied through ZiO-Podolsk and other parts of Atomenergomash to the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant (Digges 2012b).
The 2012 Informtekh and ZiO-Podolsk cases exemplify a set of systemic weaknesses that Russian and foreign observers had identified in the Russian nuclear industry for some time. In November 2010 Transparency International and Ecodefense! conducted a study of Rosatom's procurement practices based on examination of 300 material and equipment orders placed by Rosatom and posted on its website for public access. Of these, eighty-three contracts contained violations of Rosatom's internal procurement standard. Even though Rosatom is a state-owned corporation, it is not subject to the federal law that establishes procurement requirements for other parts of the state. Its own purchasing standard, moreover, is considerably weaker and less clearly defined than the federal law. Even then, more than a quarter of Rosatom's orders failed to meet its own requirements (Slivyak 2010; Transparency International and Ekozashchita! 2010).
A prominent civil society watchdog, the National Anti-Corruption Committee (NAC), reported that in 2011 the heads of twelve Rosatom enterprises were removed on suspicion of corruption, and in 2010, some thirty-five were dismissed (Ozharavosky 2011). The NAC addressed open letters to then prime minister Vladimir Putin and to the prosecutor general detailing a wide range of concerns about procurement practices. It noted that despite the recent moves against Rosatom officials, embezzlement of budget funds and corruption at SCI sites was continuing, and unreliable, fire-hazardous equipment was being used (Bellona Foundation 2011). In fact, the arrest of the ZiO-Podolsk procurement chief at the end of 2011 involved precisely the illegal purchase of substandard materials from a Ukrainian company.
The consequences of such corruption schemes in the construction and modernization of Russian NPPs had already been documented in 2009 by the Russian industrial and ecological oversight agency, Rostekhnadzor, which noted the use of uncertified or counterfeit concrete reinforcement to the Rostov and Leningrad NPPs. The potential consequences were dramatically revealed on July 17, 2011, at the Leningrad NPP No. 2 site, where the containment dome for Reactor Unit-1 was under construction. The steel reinforcement for the concrete outer protective shell of the containment structure began to bend about eight meters above the ground, and then with strong wind, peeled back on itself. Twelve hundred tons of reinforcing steelwork had to be replaced. Incorrect installation procedures were blamed for the collapse, but unsurprisingly, given the extensive history of bribery and theft in the project, Russian civil society nuclear experts called for a complete review of the Leningrad NPP No. 2 build (ITAR-Tass 2011; Ozharavosky 2011; Digges 2012a; Isted and Sains 2012). (2)
In all discussions of corruption and bribery, guarding against condemnation on the basis of allegation alone is crucial. In the Russian case, the combination of oligarchic political control, the Putin regime's renationalization of major resource companies, and the widespread deficits in rule of law mean that extra care has to be taken. However, as the Japanese case demonstrates, one must consider if substantial elements of corruption and bribery in the nuclear industry have still not yet come to public attention.
Foreign and Russian business sources maintain that corruption is increasing in the energy sector as a whole. Concerns about what may yet be uncovered in the Russian nuclear industry were not unreasonably heightened by a series of amendments in 2010 to laws governing Rosatom's operations, state support for the civil nuclear industry, and nuclear exports. Two changes have considerable consequences for concerns about corruption. First, Rosatom was given the right to establish offices in Russian embassies abroad, and the corporation immediately started to establish what its head described as a crucial permanent presence in "key embassies." This move opens the way for Rosatom to leverage practically all Russian embassy resources to its corporate ends.
Second, even though, as already noted, Rosatom operates under a substantially weaker regulatory regime than other Russian industries, it still depends on the Federal Agency for Ecological, Industrial, and Economic Supervision, Rostekhnadzor, for issuing licenses for building and operating nuclear power stations. Compliant though Rostekhnadzor often was, under the new amendments,
Rosatom is now authorised to give itself licenses to build and operate sites of application of atomic energy--including nuclear power plants.... Rosatom gives itself permission to start building nuclear power plants, storage facilities for radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, or even sites for underground pumping of radioactive waste, then Rosatom itself commissions these sites into operation. (Ozharavosky 2011)
Small wonder then that nuclear physicist Andrei Ozharavosky, speaking for Ecodefense!, concluded that "Rosatom is fast becoming, as before, a 'state within a state,' a powerful and secretive dominion with an almost limitless access to government funds and no accountability to either the state or the public" (Ozharavosky 2011).
No environment is more likely than the nuclear industry to give rise to corruption--a highly hazardous industry in which there is a global human interest in highly robust and transparent regulation. The fact that the head of Rosatom has promised President Putin a massive expansion of NPP export orders broadens those concerns to the operations of Rosatom out of Russian embassies around the world. Some measure of what is not yet known about Rosatom's foreign activities may be suggested by Roman Kupchinsky's detailed study of its sister state-owned monopoly company, Gazprom--another monopoly with numerous subsidiaries, shadowy ownership in several countries, and probable links to official corruption and organized crime (Kupchinsky 2009).
This may seem distant from matters nuclear, but not in the interlocking nested organizations of Russian state-owned corporations. Russia's monopoly nuclear power export vehicle is Rosatom's subsidiary Atomstroyexport, nearly half of whose shares are owned by Gazprom's bank Gazprombank (and Gazprom itself is 47 percent owned by Gazprombank) (Gazprombank). In time it is likely that the dense opacity of Russian business, criminal, and political transnational interlinkages Kupchinsky documented in the monopoly gas sector are likely to be replicated in the Russian nuclear sector (Bezlov et al. 2007).
Canada: "Unprecedented in My Experience"
Canada occupies a special position in the global nuclear industry, as both a major uranium exporter and a major manufacturer of the CANDU series of pressurized water nuclear reactors using heavy water as a moderator. The core of Canada's commercial nuclear manufacturing and engineering sector today is the giant engineering company SNC-Lavalin, whose energy division "is involved in thousands of infrastructure projects around the world at any given time" (Van Praet 2012b). Two wholly owned subsidiaries make up the company's nuclear sector: SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. (formerly CANATOM NPM), which provides "a complete range of services to the nuclear industry in Canada and around the world" (SNC-Lavalin n.d.), and Candu Energy, which was established when SNC-Lavalin acquired the CANDU Reactor Division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). AECL included units servicing the existing fleet of CANDU reactors around the world, life extension projects, and new reactor projects (Natural Resources Canada 2011).
Insight into what has been described as "the largest corporate scandal in Canada's history" began when Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) searched the headquarters of SNC-Lavalin in April 2012, following a request from Swiss authorities (Van Praet 2012b). That month the RCMP arrested two former SNC-Lavalin Canadian employees, Ramesh Shah and Mohammad Ismail, for violation of Canadian law prohibiting foreign bribery. In November 2012 Pierre Duhaime, the former chief executive of SNC-Lavalin, was arrested on charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and use of forged documents in relation to a Quebec building project, hiding payments of $56 million (Austen 2012; Hamilton and Van Praet 2012). This followed the arrest in Switzerland of Riadh Ben Aissa, SNC-Lavalin vice president, on suspicion of bribery in Libya and other parts of North Africa (Van Praet 2012a). Canadian authorities subsequently alleged that Ben Aissa paid $160 million in bribes to Saadi Gaddafi, son of the former Libyan dictator, to assist in the awarding of a range of contracts to SNC-Lavalin. A colleague of Ben Aissa's is alleged to have attempted to smuggle Saadi to Mexico (Austen and Malkin 2012; Van Praet 2013).
The story widened in December 2012 when Bangladeshi authorities accused Kevin Wallace, a senior SNC-Lavalin executive, of conspiring in 2011 to bribe Bangladeshi officials in relation to the construction of a 10-kilometer-long bridge for which the World Bank was providing a $1.2 billion loan toward the $3 billion total cost (The Economist 2012). One report indicates that "several Bangladeshi government officials, including a foreign affairs minister and a communications minister, were in line for a percentage of the deal" (Macarthur 2012).
In June 2012 the World Bank announced it had credible evidence in the Padma bridge project--"the stuff of donors' dreams," as The Economist put it--of "a high level corruption conspiracy" among Bangladeshi officials and SNC-Lavalin senior employees. The Bank subsequently withdrew the loan offer, leaving the bridge unbuilt (The Economist 2012). In early 2013 the World Bank announced a ten-year ban on SNC-Lavalin involvement with any of its projects. One of the accused SNC-Lavalin senior executives, Mohammad Ismail, said it was very well known in the company that a secret internal accounting code was used to conceal from auditors and funders such as the World Bank bribery payments in at least ten countries (Seglins 2013a; 2013b).
Kevin Wallace was appointed to run Candu Energy in 2011 when SNC-Lavalin acquired the AECL reactor division (Natural Resources Canada 2011). SNC was the sole bidder for the troubled AECL, paying $15 million with a promise of $75 million in subsidies in the near future (CBC News 2011). While no other company saw a viable future for Candu Energy in the global nuclear market, SNC-Lavalin claimed that development of the Enhanced CANDU reactor (EC6) would provide it with an export market advantage. Now that Canada's ban on nuclear technology trade with India, imposed since 1976, is over, Canadian officials are seeking to sell new CANDU reactors to that country (Basu 2013).
Despite arrests and scandal at SNC-Lavalin, no allegations have yet emerged of bribery and corruption specific to either Candu Energy Inc. or the larger SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. (3) However, it is not unreasonable to consider the possibility where executives with close associations to the nuclear part of the company, and indeed its head, are alleged by several governments to have been involved in bribery at the ministerial level, particularly in the Bangladesh case.
In 2012 the Bangladesh government signed a nuclear finance agreement with Russia under which Bangladesh will borrow $2 billion for construction of the first of two 1,000 MWe Russian nuclear reactors at Rooppur, close to the Indian border (World Nuclear Association 2013a). Rosatom will build and operate the NPP (The Economist 2013). Concerns about Rosatom and the Russian nuclear industry in the context of endemic corruption in Russia have already been noted here, and levels of corruption in Bangladesh are also a deep concern. The SNC-Lavalin involvement in the Padma bridge project demonstrated the susceptibility of senior cabinet ministers. A report on Bangladesh parliamentarians by the Bangladesh chapter of Transparency International alleged that 149 of them were involved in corrupt activities: "75.5 percent of the accused MPs siphon off funds which were meant for public sector development. 70.6 percent of the surveyed parliamentarians were involved in 'criminal activities' like financial embezzlement, illegal take-over of state properties and murder" (Rahman 2012).
The response of the Bangladesh government and parliamentarians was to seek a ban on Transparency International operations in the country, which according to authoritative observers continues to be "wracked by corruption" (D'Costa 2011, 149).
India: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
The issue of bribery and corruption in the Indian nuclear power industry is an important but difficult one. Put briefly, rumors and vague allegations abound, but rarely are there substantial documented allegations or convictions. The Indian nuclear power industry is large and comprehensive, with particular historical characteristics. As of mid-2013, twenty nuclear power plants are in operation (4385 megawatts electric [MWe]), and another seven are under construction (4890 MWe net) (World Nuclear Association 2013b). Serious questions have been raised on a number of occasions over safety in nuclear power plant operations; noncompliance with established operating procedures; political interference in tendering processes, regulatory procedures, and procurement practices; and a lack of transparency over financial aspects of nuclear power plant construction and operation (Ramana and Kumar 2010; Gopalakrishnan 2011; Ramana 2012).
With the completion of the India-US nuclear deal, India placed some--but not all--of its civil nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards, and in 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) agreed to allow nuclear reactors, equipment, and fuel to be supplied to India. Foreign nuclear vendors reengaged with the Indian market, and in a clear quid pro quo for the acquiescence of the NSG, US, French, and Russian nuclear vendors were allocated NPP sites and promised nuclear power plant orders. (4) As mentioned, Canadian officials are also hoping to sell the new CANDU reactors to India.
The current construction of two Russian-designed AES2/VVER-1000 (950 MWe) pressurized water reactors at Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has been wracked by controversy for many years. Construction, which began in 2001, is set to cost $3 billion, with Russian financing, and is being carried out by the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India. Fuel loading of Reactor Unit 1 began in mid-2012. Community protests have been large and vociferous, concerned primarily about safety and environmental issues. They have been accompanied by legal challenges, but so far without success.
The urgency of these protests escalated in 2012 with the arrest of the ZiO-Podolsk procurement director for facilitating the supply of low-grade steel in place of certified higher-grade steel. ZiO-Podolsk is a subsidiary within Rosatom. The Federal Security Service's investigation into the corrupt ZiO-Podolsk supply scam confirmed that from 2007 onward some counterfeit materials were supplied to ZiO-Podolsk's overseas contracts, possibly including supplies to the Kudankulam NPP (KNPP) project. When asked for details of possible supplies from ZiO-Podolsk, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) was at first evasive, as was India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). Then in April 2013, NPCIL confirmed that ZiO-Podolsk had in fact supplied the KNPP project with a wide range of materials, including steam generators (as it had done for every Soviet and Russian NPP ever built). Former AERB head A. Gopalakrishnan said that almost all the components and subsystems reported to be faulty at Kudankulam "have been produced by ZiO-Podolsk, and all of them are crucial to the safety of the plant" (Gopalakrishnan 2013).
Given the circumstances, the request by the principal community group opposing construction of the KNPP, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), for a halt in the construction and commissioning process is anything but unreasonable (The Struggle Committee 2013). Gopalakrishnan called for an investigation by independent nuclear engineering specialists:
The inordinate delay in the commissioning of the plant and the silence of the country's nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, has substantiated our doubts about the safety and security of the plant.... Let the Russian authorities themselves come here, examine the entire components and certify that they are of good quality. (Chellapan 2013)
The former nuclear regulator said, "The fact that a high-cost, high-risk nuclear reactor is [thought to have] defects ... in its components and equipment even before it [has started operating] is highly unusual, and indicates gross failures at several levels in the AERB-NPCIL-Atomstroyexport (triumvirate)" (Gopalakrish nan 2013).
This is clearly not the end of the story of the effects of corruption, whether in Russia or India, as they relate to the Indian nuclear power industry. The only question is whether revelations come before or after the potentially catastrophic consequences of corrupt practices in a high-risk industry.
Corruption, Trust, and Global Democracy
Clearly, the first lesson for the rest of the world to learn from Japan is that the documented networks of corruption, collusion, and nepotism are not unique to Japan, with its squirrelly industry-regulator politics. Optimistically, it might be said that the 2012 cases are egregious, or sometimes limited in scale, and should not be taken to say anything about the nuclear industry as such; perhaps they do not even affect the safety or operating capacity of nuclear reactors. In fact, we often do not know enough to make such judgments. However, on balance, a pervasive pattern of corruption clearly must be addressed.
More generally, however, corruption specialists would warn us that we usually see only the tip of the corruption iceberg. If the corruption, collusion, and nepotism in the Japanese case have taught us nothing else, the national systems of nuclear regulation that appear sound may be anything but that. In the absence of supervening regulation, we simply have no way of knowing whether national regulatory systems are adequate--until they fail.
Binding legal regulation of nuclear power is essentially a matter for nation-states, operating within a wider framework of global governance through bilateral diplomacy, multilateral treaties, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (Alger 2008). Some critics of nuclear power plants in developing countries have pointed to the undoubtedly uneven record of some of these countries when it comes to the most important multilateral nuclear safety agreements (Alger and Findlay 2010). Equally if not more important are the deficiencies in the key instruments in the global nuclear safety regime, such as the 1994 IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety. This multilateral agreement addresses "siting, design, construction, operation, the availability of adequate financial and human resources, the assessment and verification of safety, quality assurance and emergency preparedness" (IAEA n.d.). However, as the IAEA itself puts it, "The Convention is an incentive instrument. It is not designed to ensure fulfilment of obligations by Parties through control and sanction but is based on their common interest to achieve higher levels of safety" (IAEA n.d.). In other words, the convention is little more than a nonbinding gentlemen's agreement, with the consequence that there is no global regulation worthy of the name in matters of nuclear safety. And if questions of corruption in the global nuclear industry are added to the list of nuclear safety concerns that a competent nuclear regulator should address, it is clear that the IAEA offers no global regulation of national nuclear regulators.
Governance is no simple issue, especially following the impacts of what is often called the retreat of the state. Rayner suggests that an appropriate understanding of governance is a displacement of government, referring to "the management of a system ... involving mutual adjustment, negotiation, and accommodation between the parties rather than direct control" (Rayner 2007, 166-167). That would seem to be a good description of what analysts and practitioners of nuclear governance see themselves doing, on both a national and global scale. The question is whether such a process is able to provide an adequate basis for regulation of the global nuclear power complex.
Why does this matter? The first, obvious answer is elementary concern for the safety of nuclear power plants and research and military reactors. That is serious enough, as can be seen by scrutiny of the archives of accidents at nuclear power plants over the past half century, or of the case studies of the nuclear industry's handling of accidents (Perrow 1984; Perin 2006). After the Fukushima "nuclear village" revelations, the confirmation of nuclear industry bribery and corruption by global companies supplying key NPP operating safety systems should be a wakeup call on the need for systemic review of the role of corruption in the nuclear industry worldwide. This is surely serious enough to lead to calls for reform of the IAEA and the establishment of mandatory and robust global regulation of the safety and integrity of the nuclear industry, including coercive oversight of national regulators.
Yet the widespread and often deep corruption of the nuclear industry over the past half century also has profound social and political consequences through the corrosion of public trust--in companies, governments, and indeed energy systems. Sociologists have been ahead of the curve here, exploring the nature of contemporary societies dependent on long, complex, and often socially invisible skeins of technological management of risk--and trust. Energy systems are prime examples, best understood not as technologies but as social or institutional systems mediated by materials and devices (Rayner 2010). Trust, or more broadly, citizens' expectations about trust, liability, and consent of given systems are fundamental to the viability of energy systems. As Steve Rayner, one of the most insightful analysts of nuclear power systems, has put it, in ordinary language "risk" involves something quite different from the prevailing industry notion of probability times impact.
We found that people used the term "risk" to refer to concerns about ... trust, liability and consent.... Trust hinged on whether the affected parties were satisfied that the institutions responsible for the commissioning, design, implementation, management, and regulation of the technology (including arrangements for consent and liability) were appropriate and adequate. (Rayner 2010, 2620)
Trust, liability, and consent immediately signal issues of authority and legitimacy. No global authority systems yet exist that carry sufficient legitimacy to address these issues in relation to the necessarily globalized systems of energy in general and nuclear power in particular. These systems depend on sociologically complex, diverse, and imbricated systems of trust. Trust is socially generated, maintained, and eroded. Trust and mistrust are fungible, readily transferred from one life domain to others. Corruption in the nuclear industry not only gives rise to rational mistrust in the safety and reliability of particular companies and technologies. It also clearly reminds people that they very likely may have not given their informed consent to the wider energy systems of which they are a part, and that in matters of nuclear regulation, governance, and allocation of liability, mistrust is unfortunately rational.
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Richard Tanter is senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and professorial fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. He has published widely on security and environmental issues in Australia and East and Southeast Asia, including Masters of Terror: Indonesia's Military and Violence in East Timor in 1999 (coedited with Desmond Ball and Gerry Van Klinken, 2006), and Bitter Flowers, Sweet Flowers: East Timor, Indonesia and the World Community (coedited with Mark Selden and Stephen Shalom, 2001). He can be reached at email@example.com. An earlier version of this article appeared in Nautilus Peace and Security Weekly Report, "Nuclear Corruption 2012 to Date," contributors' blog entry for climate change and security, July 5, 2012.
(1.) For a brief outline of the situations in the United States, China, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Taiwan, see Tanter 2012.
(2.) For the remarkable detailed collation of materials by the former Leningrad NPP senior employee turned whistleblower, see Kharitonov 2004. He provides a comprehensive understanding of the distance between the ideal that Rosatom presents of the Leningrad NPP ("the pearl in the crown of nuclear power plants of our country") and the reality.
(3.) Note, however, that AECL was involved in well-documented corrupt dealings for CANDU reactor sales in the 1970s and 1980s in Turkey, South Korea, and Argentina (CBC Digital Archives 1976; Martin 1996; Bratt 2006).
(4.) At least 10,000 MW was promised to US companies (Ramana 2012).
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|Article Type:||Industry overview|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2013|
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