South Korea, one of the world’s largest nuclear electricity producers, will scrap plans to add nuclear power plants, its president said yesterday, signaling a shift in decades of reliance on nuclear energy.
The nation will move away from nuclear energy and will not seek to extend the life of existing plants, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.
He also vowed to cut South Korea’s reliance on coal.
South Korea is to shut down 10 old coal power plants and stop building new ones.
“So far South Korea’s energy policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a back seat,” Moon said at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country’s oldest nuclear power plant, Kori 1, in Busan, home to South Korea’s largest cluster of nuclear power plants. “It’s time for a change.”
The speech was Moon’s follow-up on his presidential campaigns to cut coal and nuclear power.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups welcomed Moon’s announcement.
Since the Kori 1 reactor went online in 1978, the resource-poor country added 24 nuclear power plants to meet rising demand for electricity from rapid industrialization and economic development.
Last year, a third of electricity in South Korea was produced from nuclear power plants.
Its nuclear power production from 25 nuclear plants last year was the fifth-largest in the world, according to the World Nuclear Association.
South Korea is also one of the few countries that have exported its nuclear reactor technology, an area once seen by some of its construction companies as a new cash cow.
Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak promoted nuclear energy as part of his clean energy strategy and helped local companies win billions of US dollars of deals to build a nuclear reactor in United Arab Emirates.
However, South Koreans’ enthusiasm for nuclear energy quickly waned following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdown in its neighbor Japan.
The following year, fake parts scandals prompted an investigation and caused fear over the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants.
Earthquakes in southeastern South Korea also dented public support in the country that was long believed to be safe from earthquakes.
South Korea is also searching for answers on how and where to permanently store spent nuclear fuel.
South Korea plans to develop its own decommissioning technology and train experts in the area to decommission the Kori 1 reactor.
The decommissioning will take at least 15 years and cost 643.7 billion won (US$569 million), the South Korean Ministry of Energy said.
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