+ A

A flawed policy

July 29,2017
The Moon Jae-in administration’s ambitious plan to phase out nuclear power plants across the nation continues to cause confusion. A committee aimed at gathering public opinion on the matter has backtracked on the government’s plan to let its findings decide the nation’s future energy policy. After a meeting on Thursday, a spokesperson for the committee said a civilian panel cannot make that call as its members are only commissioned to make a recommendation based on their findings.

A dramatic turnaround is again taking place after the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation (KHNP) rubber-stamped a resolution to suspend construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear plants to avoid its labor union’s vehement protests. This kind of farce takes place when a government pushes its long-term energy policy based on political conviction rather than a scientific review.

Despite this mess, the Moon administration is adhering to its original scheme. A Blue House official affirmed that the government already gave the committee a de facto right to decide. This cacophony has led to a ping-pong match between the administration and the committee.

Germany, the only developed country actively seeking to reduce the share nuclear power takes up in its total energy pie, allowed a public debate on the issue but eventually went through the legislature to make a final decision.

At Friday’s meeting at the Blue House with business leaders, President Moon made it clear that he will promote the export of Korean nuclear plants overseas. But that does not make sense. How can the president ask other countries to purchase nuclear reactors while sticking to his campaign pledge to shift our energy policy in a nuclear-free direction?

South Korea, one of the top-three nuclear plant builders, will likely export plants to the United Kingdom, following exports to the United Arab Emirates, after a British consortium asked the Korea Electric Power Corporation to join it.

We wonder what position the Moon administration takes on nuclear power plants. After the KHNP quit promoting the safety of nuclear power, the battleground has turned into an uneven playing field. To defuse the explosive confusion, the government must at least guarantee the committee’s independence.

It is not too late. The government must fully explain the merits and drawbacks of nuclear power before leaving the National Assembly to make the final decision. That’s the only way to stop all the chaos.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 29, Page 26