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Nuclear sophistry

Apr 18,2019
The government has decided to foster the business of dismantling nuclear reactors to help create a new growth engine for the economy. We welcome the decision coupled with efforts to develop new technology and create a 50 billion won ($44 million) fund to cultivate related industries. The market for nuclear dismantlement is expected to hit 550 trillion won soon. Even if Korea is a latecomer to the business, we cannot sit on our hands. That’s why the government came up with strategies Wednesday to reinforce our ability to compete with the United States, France, Britain and Germany in that business.

However, the government missed a crucial factor. To strengthen the nuclear dismantlement business, it must reconsider its policy of phasing out nuclear reactors. Without the abilities to design, build and operate nuclear plants, we cannot avoid dangers when dismantling them. Any country with expertise in designing, constructing and running nuclear reactors also has competitiveness in the dismantling business.

The cases of advanced countries prove it. France’s Orano has unrivaled competitiveness in both designing and operating nuclear reactors and dismantling them. America’s Energy Solutions is no exception. But Korea wants to tackle the global market after 2030, when nearly half of its existing reactors will be shut down due to the government’s nuclear phase-out policy. The Shin Kori No. 5 and 6 reactors are the last ones being built in Korea. Under such circumstances, we can hardly claim global competitiveness in dismantlement.

The government’s out-of-the-blue presentation of nuclear dismantlement as an alternative to nuclear plant construction does not make any sense. Despite the relatively large size of the dismantlement market, it cannot be compared to the construction market. Our nuclear industry cannot be restored with dismantlement alone.

The government must reconsider its nuclear phase-out. Which country would commission Korea to build or dismantle reactors when it shuts down its own nuclear plants?

Rep. Song Young-gil, a ruling party lawmaker, has proposed a resumption of the suspended construction of the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors in return for closing down old reactors. The public also supports maintenance or expansion of nuclear plants. As President Moon Jae-in has repeatedly stressed, Korea is proud of its nuclear safety record over the last four decades. There is no reason for his administration to cling to its damaging nuclear phase-out policy.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 18, Page 34