+ A

Long-term energy policy, please

June 01,2017
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s plan to phase out of nuclear power has raised concerns about the country’s long-term power supply policy. During the campaign, Moon has vowed to halt construction of new reactors and set the stage to close down the 25 active reactor to make the number zero over the next 40 years. The existing reactors would have to be refurbished to ensure resilience against quakes and plants that have outlived their operational age would be disassembled. Governments around the world have been revisiting nuclear power policy after Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in 2011.

But the steps need not be rushed. The planning advisory committee acting as the transition team for Moon’s new administration during a briefing by the Nuclear Security and Safety Commission (NSSC) told senior members from the state nuclear regulator to come up with a direction to phase out from the energy supply reliance on nuclear power as soon as possible.

But it is not up to the NSSC to decide closures of nuclear power plants, as it is an organization responsible for overseeing safety of their operation. It should be the industry and energy ministry that redesigns energy supply outline including what to do with nuclear plants. Regardless of what was promised during campaigning, the nuclear power exit plan should not be hurried.

Korea’s energy supply capacity is not enough considering the 4.4 percent average annual gain in demand and a blackout in 2011. The state has been increasing nuclear reactor capacity to lessen reliance on oil imports with price volatility. As result, nearly 70 percent of the power supply comes from fossil-fueled power stations and nuclear reactors. The structure cannot be fixed overnight, given the slow pace of renewable energy development.

A hasty transition could trigger a supply shortage, blackout, and spike in electricity bills. The government sets two-year energy supply plan based on outlook for 15-year supply capacity. The Swiss government also has envisioned a phase-out from nuclear power, but works against a timetable until the year 2050. Moon must come up with reasonable long-term plan in shifting the country’s energy supply source.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 1, Page 34