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Ill-advised energy policy

Oct 23,2017
President Moon Jae-in has reacted to the recommendation by an independent panel to resume construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear plants, which was suspended after Moon pledged to wean Korea off electricity generated by nuclear reactors. He declared he would continue with his denuclearization policy even after the panel voted to resume construction of the two reactors by a nearly 20 percent margin. Moon said he will respect the panel’s conclusion, but his response falls short of recognizing what it signifies.

First of all, the president did not express an apology for breaking a campaign promise and wasting government money to canvass public opinion on the resumption of the construction of the two plants. The government’s suspension of the construction cost a whopping 100 billion won ($88.3 million) in damages to contractors. The cost of running the panel and a committee that managed it was 4.6 billion won.

The way Moon responded to the panel’s recommendation was also disappointing. Given the importance of communication with the public, which the president has repeatedly underscored, it was surprising that he ended up instructing his press secretary to read a 1,800-word statement on his behalf. We wonder why he didn’t directly address the people on such a grave issue — even when he happily made an appearance at the Busan International Film Festival.

A bigger problem is his stubborn adherence to the denuclearization policy. Moon said he will stop construction of any new reactors. He has even threatened the Wolsong plant in Gyeongju. Since the lifespan of the Wolsong plant was extended to November 2022 by the decision of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission in 2015, a trial is going on between the commission and civic groups. Moon must wait for a ruling by the court.

He must not try to find justification for shutting down nuclear plants across the country based on the panel’s recommendation to decrease the number of nuclear plants down the road, as the panel’s purview was the Shin Kori 5 and 6 plants alone.

Despite the government’s argument that the world is moving toward a post-nuclear power era, reality says otherwise. The United States, Japan and even oil producers like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are building nuclear plants.

The government must devise an energy policy with a long-term perspective. It must maintain an optimum level of nuclear plants to meet demand for stable energy while increasing the share of renewable energy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 23, Page 34