South Korea Eases Off Nuclear Energy at Home but Pushes Sales Abroad
By In-Soo Nam
South Korea is pushing hard to get more nuclear-power contracts abroad, but it is becoming much less enthusiastic about building reactors at home following scandals over nuclear safety checks.
Joining several countries who say they will curb their nuclear-power plans or move toward phasing it out completely, the Seoul government said over the weekend that it may reduce the planned proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power by nearly half over the next two decades.
“If that’s what the people want, we’ll follow,” said Shin Yong-min, director at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s energy resources policy department. “The government will try reduce its dependence on nuclear power to a rational level.”
After five months of heated discussions among scholars, industry officials and civic groups, a government-commissioned advisory group Sunday recommended that the future use of nuclear power be scaled back sharply when a new long-term energy plan is introduced in December.
The government plan through to 2035 should target nuclear power taking 22% to 29% of the electricity generation mix, down from 41% called for in the 2030 route map of the previous Korean government.
This is a significant about-face for the country, which has battled to keep up with growing power demand by increasing its reliance on nuclear power. The recommendation has implications for greenhouse-gas emissions, as there are few alternatives available for South Korea other than increasing its use of fossil fuels.
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