Published on May 15, 2020 by Charles Digges
An investigation at Norway’s now-closed Halden research reactor reveals that results from a number of nuclear fuel experiments were tampered with in an effort that was “planned and well hidden,” according to the facility’s operator — a discovery that could have consequences for numerous nuclear power utilities around the world.
Many of Halden’s former customers are foreign governments and nuclear utilities that relied on Halden’s data to make decisions about how to fuel their own nuclear reactors. The purpose of research facilities like Halden is to simulate how various nuclear fuels behave under different circumstances, thus allowing nuclear power companies a greater margin of safety in their operations.
While officials have not revealed which nuclear operators might have been impacted by the falsifications, the say the report casts doubt on seven fuel experiments that took place between 1990 and 2005.
“What scares us is that companies around the world operating nuclear reactors may have relied on data from the Halden reactor,” says Frederic Hauge, Bellona’s president. “If data has been manipulated, security can be jeopardized, because the research is used to make decisions about how the reactors are operated.”
The Halden reactor, which is one of four research reactors run in Norway, began operations in 1955 and was shuttered in 2018 after a long period of financial difficulties and technical problems. Kvamme Associates, an Oslo-based anti-corruption research group, led the investigation into the suspect data. The group provided its results to the Institute of Energy Technology, or IFE, Halden’s operator, earlier this week.
According to investigators, the IFE’s suspicions about data manipulation arose last summer. The ensuing inquiry revealed fraud so serious that the IFE reported it to Norway’s economic crimes unit.
The investigation report, which IFE released to Bellona this week, shows that a number of fuel tests were fabricated either because researchers failed to meet test requirements, or because they ran up against deadlines they were unable to meet.