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Prudence is needed

Oct 16,2017
A group of civilians who took part in a public discussion to determine whether to permanently stop the construction of two nuclear power plants — Shin Kori 5 and 6 — in line with President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise finished their debate after three days. An opinion poll of the 471 citizens, who participated in the debate as members of a committee aimed at collecting public opinion on the sensitive issue, was also conducted on Sunday.

The civic groups and other committee members plan to announce on Friday the results of their heated discussion and recommend their conclusion to the government. The Moon Jae-in administration has repeatedly said it will accept or respect their conclusion.

The committee carries great significance as the government has adopted so-called “deliberative democracy” — in which a divisive public issue is determined through the participation of grassroots organizations — for the first time. They listened to the pros and cons over electricity production by nuclear plants before reaching the conclusion. Unfortunately, they had a relatively short debate time in the face of a plethora of challenges involved.

It is not easy to predict the conclusion of the committee. But the results of surveys were too close to call. Given the selection of committee members in proportion to their survey samples, both sides would not give overwhelming support to either of the two positions. In that case, the committee will simply deliver to the government their own deliberation process to leave the final decision up to the government after having raised so many controversies since its establishment in July.

If the gap between pros and cons is neck and neck, the government plans to determine the fate of the two plants on its own after taking various factors into account. If that’s the case, the government must continue the construction of the two nuclear reactors. The Moon Jae-in administration must first consider the immense cost — 2.8 trillion won ($2.48 billion) — needed to demolish the two nuclear plants, the future of our nuclear plants and jobs.

It is not too late for the government to start a full-fledged debate on how to prepare for an era of the post-nuclear plants after the nation reaches a full consensus on the government’s long-term energy policy. The administration must take responsibility for the future of our economy. It must not try to hide behind the shadow of the committee’s recommendation.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 16, Page 34