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South Korea to Continue to Pursue Nuclear Power After Long Debate

South Korea announced on the past Friday that it would resume the construction of two nuclear plants, despite President Moon’s campaign promises to end the projects.

President Moon had ordered a temporary suspension of construction of the Shin Kori-5 and Shin Kori-6 in Ulsan in late June. Since then, the decision to continue or end the construction of the two reactors became heated between the conservative champions of nuclear power and antinuclear groups.

Credit: New York Times

Credit: New York Times

Environmentalists and other opponents of increased nuclear power have expressed their disappointment and dismay at the decision.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movements (KFEM) demanded in a statement to “Put the citizens’ right to breathe, and the environment, before the profits of businesses.”

Opponents have become particularly concerned about nuclear power since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. Worries intensified when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Ulsan hit near some plants last year.

However, in June, President Moon proposed an independent panel of 471 citizens to study public opinions on the issue and make a recommendation. The citizens came from various walks of life and conducted extensive surveys.

It was announced on Friday that three-fifths of the panel supported the resuming building of the Shin Kori-5 and Shin Kori-6 reactors, while the remaining were opposed. The Moon administration said it would respect the decision of the public opinion.

Daul Jang, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia Seoul Office reported that “We welcome the way the decision was reached, through public debate rather than by industry and government insiders with vested interests, and hope to see this system used again the future.”

However, many have argued that many South Korean citizens have been forced to consider the necessity of new nuclear plants.

Jang explained that “Koreans have been led to believe that nuclear exports are essential for the economy, when in fact South Korea has barely exported any nuclear plants in the least nine years and is not very competitive in global terms.”

In similar terms, KFEM also stated “After 40 years of nuclear power, special interest groups connected to the nuclear power industry have taken root everywhere in South korean society, blinding the eyes of the people.”

The government-controlled Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company, the country’s sole nuclear operator, has spent $1.4 billion on the construction of the two reactors and has invested heavily in promoting nuclear power.

With the construction of the two reactors, South Korea will have nine nuclear reactors in one cluster, on a scale that is globally unprecedented.

Credit: Korea Herald

Credit: Korea Herald