Tuesday, October 17, 2017

More on Kobe Steel Scandal and Unanswered Questions About Nuclear Supply Chains


I wondered whether Kobe steel was used in the Westinghouse nuclear reactors being built in South Carolina and Georgia.

The World Nuclear Organization reports that the Vogtle plant in Georgia and the Summer plant in South Carolina are both building Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. These reactors are modular in construction:

Nuclear Power in the USA (Updated 12 October 2017) World Nuclear Organization. Available, http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/usa-nuclear-power.aspx (accessed October 17, 2017)

So, where does Westinghouse get the steel for construction of the modular, pre-fabricated components of its AP1000 reactors?

After spending more than an hour looking in multiple databases, I am not able to find the answer to this question. Its clear that Kobe steel made a delivery to Fukushima Daiini but outside of that disclosure I find it hard to trace its role in the nuclear supply chain. Here is the news report on delivery of Kobe steel to Daiini:
Yuka Obayashi October 15, 2017 As crisis at Kobe Steel deepens, CEO says cheating engulfs 500 firms. Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kobe-steel-scandal/as-crisis-at-kobe-steel-deepens-ceo-says-cheating-engulfs-500-firms-idUSKBN1CL011

Nuclear power plant parts are the latest to join the list of affected equipment as Fukushima nuclear operator Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) (Tepco) said on Friday it had taken delivery of pipes from Kobe Steel that were not checked properly.   The pipes were delivered to its Fukushima Daini station, located near the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi plant, but have not been used, Tepco said, adding it was checking all its facilities.


Searching for information on Kobe steel in Westinghouse reactors, I discovered a blog post addressing a Greenpeace statement focusing concern on the tolerance safety of steel used in Japanese and European reactors:
Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist, Greenpeace Germany (2017, October 13). Kobe Steel in Japanese Nuclear Plants, http://www.fukushima-is-still-news.com/2017/10/kobe-steel-in-japanese-nuke-plants.html
KOBE STEEL MAJOR SUPPLIER TO JAPANESE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY – AS EMBATTLED COMPANY ADMITS SUPPLYING TEPCO’s FUKUSHIMA DAINI REACTORS ...
The revelations of deliberate falsification at Kobe Steel follows a major scandal involving two other steel suppliers to the nuclear industry, Japan Steel Works and JCFC. Steel manufactured by these two companies was under investigation in France and Japan, following revelations of falsified quality control supplied to French nuclear reactors. The underlying manufacturing problems were not resolved following Greenpeace investigations despite assurances in that the components were safe by the French regulator.(2)...
...Zirco Products Co., Ltd, a joint owned subsidiary of Kobe Special Tube Company and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and based in Shimonoseki, also supplies zirconium alloy fuel cladding tubes which are used in Japan and globally to contain fuel rods inside nuclear reactor cores.
Here is the Greenpeace post, dated 2016:
Japanese Reactor Steel at Risk of Catastrophic Failure - JCFC, JSW and JFE Holdings under Suspicion プレスリリース - 2016-12-13 Greenpeace, http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2016/pr201612131/ 
13 December 2016, Tokyo - Major components installed in all Japanese nuclear power reactors are at risk of catastrophic failure, due to potentially flawed manufacturing and quality controls exercises at the forging stages, technical assessment commissioned by Greenpeace Japan has concluded. Documents supplied to the Japanese nuclear regulator, (the NRA) by the Japan Casting and Forging Company (JCFC), Japan Steel Works (JSW) and JFE Holdings all show the potential for excess carbon in their large steel forged components, so called positive macrosegregation, according to a report by nuclear engineering consultancy Large&Associates of London.(1)
Tracing the supply chain for steel used in Westinghouse AP1000 reactors is going to be more time consuming than I can afford at this point but it is clear from the available evidence that there has been widespread fraud in quality certification in steel and other metals used in nuclear plant construction.

Moreover, this is not a new problem but has been going on for years, as reported here:
Stephen Stapczynski, Ichiro Suzuki , and Masumi Suga October 17, 2017, Kobe Steel is Said to Have Likely Faked Data for Over a Decade, Bloomberg, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-17/kobe-steel-is-said-to-have-likely-faked-data-for-over-a-decade

Kobe Steel Ltd. said it will co-operate with the U.S. Department of Justice after the agency requested documents related to the fake data scandal that risks engulfing Japan’s third-biggest steelmaker.

Kobe has said some 500 companies worldwide are in a supply chain tainted by admissions that it falsified certifications on the strength and durability of metals going back to 2007, including automotive giants Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. and the U.S.’s biggest plane maker, Boeing Co. The besieged Japanese company said in a statement it can’t yet quantify the impact of the crisis on its earnings.