Both cities were made famous by their association with nuclear disasters, but Busan's political leadership were keen to assure the public that the decision to twin with the foreign cities was merely symbolic, and not an indication of any lack of faith in the aging but perfectly safe Gori-1 nuclear plant, near Busan, which has now entered the 35th year of its 30-year design life.
However, according to a leak on the nuclear issue, a Busan city report said that it is "better to create links between us and these other unique cities now, as after any disaster we are likely to be operating from a different location and it will be much more difficult to organize civic ties. The public expect us to plan ahead."
The Gori complex was Korea's first venture into nuclear power, and Gori-1 was originally shut down in 2007 as planned before growing power shortages threatened the Korean economy, forcing it to be reopened two years later. Since then, reports of a number of incidents at Gori have leaked out. The Ministry of Factual Economy has stressed that legally these should be portrayed as 'happenings', rather than accidents, also assuring citizens that "Busan is a long way from Seoul". An official for Korea Hydra & Nuclear Power (KHNP) said "It is unfortunate that the Gori reactor has suffered a series of malfunctions over the past year."
In February one unfortunate happening occurred when an external subcontractor accidentally pressed the wrong button and switched the power off to the nuclear plant, causing the reactor cooling system to fail for 12 minutes. A sign has now been placed above the button which reads "Please do not press this button again".
But the citizens of Busan, given a choice between power for their smartphones or a nuclear-free future, have logically opted to keep the phones which will likely provide their first warning of a disaster at the nearby nuclear complex. Despite this, there is a recognition of the risks they face; in a recent episode of the hit television series "I Want to be a Survivor", a Gori nuclear worker who sang of his fears for his safety and that of his children was quickly voted off the program after judges said his act would probably "lack longevity".
Last week Greenpeace's $32 million battleship 'Rainbow Warrior III' approached the Gori nuclear power station complex, but the pay-per-view media group's vessel was required to stay 500 meters away from the plant as according to a safety engineer who agreed to speak off the record "anything unexpected could trigger it". Korea's nuclear authority have condemned the leak, but said it was not unexpected.
In addition to trying to provoke a meltdown and endanger the lives of millions of Koreans, four activitists belonging to Greenpeace were taken into custody after a 52-hour high-altitude stunt which involved climbing to the top of one of the towers of Busan's Gwangan Bridge. The climb mirrors a similar stunt in London last week where Greenpeace members climbed to the top of a small office building called "The Shard". Many foreign Greenpeace activists are said to enjoy getting high.
One of the activists, Soon Joong-kwon, said he was very proud to have climbed Gwangan Bridge to show that 3.43 million citizens are exposed to nuclear risks, but when questioned by The Dokdo Times, none of the 3.43 million citizens in Busan said they had seen him, indicating that the protest had failed. The three foreign activist ringleaders were later moved to an immigration detention center before being deportated.
Korea officially uses a 7-point 'nuclear event' scale which starts a zero and ends at 7:
South Korea Nuclear Event Scale
0. A 'deviation' from normal operation if there is such a thing which there isn't so this level of happening is classed as 'zero'
1. An 'anomaly' – tap the dial, or hit it with a hammer if this doesn't work
2. An 'incident' limited to the plant itself which can easily be covered up
3. A 'serious incident' still limited to the plant and its immediate surroundings, which can still be covered up but staff should not take their cars home until it's rained a few times
4. An 'accident with local consequences' – staff should give the local restaurants a miss but try to smile through their remaining teeth – the local newspaper may run a small story if it can't be bribed not to
5. An 'accident with wider consequences' – a national newspaper picks up the story if it can't be bribed or pressured not to
6. A 'serious accident' – the president has to make a statement that everything is OK
7. A 'major accident' – the president has to make a statement that everything is OK from another country
Source: The Dokdo Times
However, officials have consistently denied the existence of a 9th point which according to leaks is simply known as 'Busan 2014'.
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