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Nuclear phase-out to be gradual

Sept 16,2017
Korea’s energy minister said Friday the country will gradually phase out nuclear energy, not shut it off dramatically.

“The government will push for a gradual phasing out of nuclear energy over more than a 60-year period,” said Paik Un-gyu, head of the Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry, during a conference hosted by the National Academy of Engineering of Korea at Lotte Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul.

Paik emphasized that the “right time has come” for the government to shift its energy policy toward safer and cleaner energy for the future.

The minister vowed that the government will “dramatically cut down on emission of fine dust and greenhouse gases by investing in environment-friendly facilities and prohibiting the construction of new coal power plants.”

He reiterated the government’s pledge to pursue a transition into green, renewable energy, saying the authorities’ decision to “drop construction plans for six new nuclear reactors” and to “stop renewing the life cycles of aged nuclear reactors” were all part of such efforts.

Plans for six new nuclear plants have been scrapped. But the fate of two nuclear reactors under construction - the Shin Kori 5 and 6 - still hang in the balance. A commission has been formed to determine whether the construction should be abandoned. President Moon Jae-in vowed during the presidential campaign that he would pull the plug on the two plants being built in Ulsan. But the fact that the plants were nearly 30 percent complete caused a backlash. Moon ordered a commission to decide their fate.

Paik also raised the possibility of Korea using its expertise in dismantling nuclear reactors as a new source of revenue as such technology will be demanded overseas with a rise in the number of aging nuclear power plants.

Korea will be using nuclear power for many decades regardless of the Moon government’s actions. Constructions of two new atomic power plants, the Shin Hanul 1 and 2, is more than 90 percent complete, with Shin Hanul 1 scheduled to begin operation next year and Shin Hanul 2 in 2019. Their life spans are 60 years.

The number of aged power plants requiring dismantling worldwide is expected to reach 216 by 2030, up from 189 plants by 2020. The government anticipates 77,000 new jobs could be created in renewable and clean energy and nuclear reactor dismantling combined.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr ]