About 30 instructors who train US sailors on the running of nuclear reactors are under investigation for cheating on a written exam, Navy commanders said Tuesday.
The allegations raised fresh questions about ethics problems in the military and come on the heels of another cheating scandal that has implicated nearly 20 percent of the Air Force’s nuclear missile officers.
The suspected cheating took place at the navy’s nuclear propulsion program in Charleston, South Carolina, where a sailor alerted senior officers to the problem, commanders said.
The instructors for the program, who also oversee the running of the reactors, are required to be regularly re-certified to teach fellow sailors and must pass written, oral and hands-on tests, officials said.
“The propulsion exam was allegedly shared amongst some senior enlisted operators,” said Admiral John Greenert, chief of naval operations.
“To say that I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” the naval chief told a news conference.
“I assure you if these allegations are substantiated we will hold the …appropriate people accountable.”
Admiral John Richardson, head of the propulsion program, declined to say at the same press briefing how many sailors were under investigation.
But a navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told several reporters that about 30 instructors are suspected of sharing the answers to the written exam.
Richardson said he took “full responsibility for this incident.”
All sailors implicated in the alleged cheating have been “removed” from the site and stripped of access to the reactors, the admiral said.
A naval criminal investigation was under way, additional supervisors had been assigned to oversee teams at the South Carolina center and officials also were examining if the cheating reflected a broader problem.
But he said there was no doubt that the military’s nuclear reactors “are operating safely.”
The Navy has 10 aircraft carriers and 93 submarines powered by nuclear reactors.
Richardson said the cheating allegations were not uncovered as part of a wider Pentagon review of the nuclear force, prompted by a series of incidents in the Air Force’s missile officer corps.
The cheating scandal by “missileers” in the Air Force has implicated 92 officers out of the 500-strong member corps, sparking concerns of a deeper morale problem.
But Richardson said at the moment the suspected cheating among sailors did not appear to point to any morale crisis.
About 30 instructors who train US sailors on the running of nuclear reactors are under investigation for cheating on a written exam, Navy commanders say.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
One of Japan’s two remaining working nuclear reactors was taken offline Tuesday, with the other to be shut down later this month and no restarts in sight amid public hostility to nuclear power.
Kansai Electric Power started reducing generating power at its Unit No. 3 at the Oi plant, Fukui prefecture, western Japan, on Monday afternoon and was fully shut down early on Tuesday, a company official said.
The shutdown was aimed at allowing the operator to be ready for inspections legally mandated within 13 months of the start of commercial operation.
The reactor is one of the only two still generating power in Japan. The other one, Unit No. 4 at Oi, is to be switched off on September 15.
It is not known when they will resume operations because they will be assessed under a set of guidelines recently drawn up by the nuclear watchdog, according to Kansai Electric.
The two reactors were restarted — despite public opposition — in July last year after passing safety tests, ending a brief period in which no atomic power was generated in Japan.
They were the only units to be brought back online after undergoing such tests in the aftermath of the disaster in March 2011 at Fukushima.
There, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it caused crippled reactor cooling systems, sparking meltdowns and spewing radioactive materials in the world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Japan has turned to pricey fossil-fuel alternatives to fill the gap left by the shutdown of atomic plants, which had supplied about one-third of resource-poor Japan’s electricity before the disaster.
Concern over a nuclear crisis developing in Japan has led the European Union to agree to “stress test” all of their nuclear reactors.
EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Tuesday that “there was a general agreement” to conduct the stress tests.
“Nobody spoke against the stress test proposal,” he said. “We want to look at the risk and safety issues in the light of events in Japan.”
The European commission spoke after emergency talks between ministers, national nuclear safety chiefs and industry leaders that were hastily called amid rising public concern in the wake of Japan’s nuclear emergency.
Oettinger said there were no existing EU rules to make the tests binding.
“Recognised experts will be responsible for carrying out the tests in the course of this year,” he added. “The tests will carry such authority that the necessary consequences will be drawn from them.”
“We want to operate if possible with everybody on board,” he said, adding the tests would be completed in 2011 and would start as soon as guidelines were reached on the criteria, reach and extent of the checks.
On the basis of the results “we want all the nuclear power plants to be reassessed in the light of events in Japan,” he added.
He also said he hoped to associate neighboring countries, Turkey, Russia and Switzerland, in the safety review.
In his letter of invitation to Tuesday’s talks, Oettinger said participants would look at operations at European reactors similar to those in Japan, while taking stock of earthquake contingency planning, cooling problems, and evacuation procedures.
“EU preparedness for parallel emergencies occurring at several nuclear installations” was also on the agenda.
Japan’s nuclear emergency Monday prompted Germany and Switzerland to halt nuclear programmes with Italy taking a hard look at its new nuclear energy plans but Poland saying it would press ahead with building it first plants.
Anti-nuclear lawmakers from Austria had demanded stress tests across Europe.
– with AFP