” South Korea will abandon nuclear energy amid to concerns over a Fukushima-style disaster and instead focus on renewable energy sources, the country’s president said yesterday.
Moon Jae In announced he had scrapped plans to build more nuclear power plants, ending decades of reliance on the controversial energy source.
His decision marks the latest blow to the nuclear industry, following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and follows through on Mr Moon’s campaign pledge to reduce usage of coal and nuclear power.
“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era.” Mr Moon said at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country’s oldest power plant, Kori 1, in Busan. “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 backseat.”
“But it’s time for a change…The country’s economic situation has changed, and our awareness of the importance of the environment has changed. The conviction that the safety and lives of people are more important than anything else has become firmly established.”
He also announced plans to reduce the reliance on coal by shutting down 10 coal plants.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace welcomed the announcement.
“People in South Korea have been demanding an energy transition for a long time in major cities and this is one reason why President Moon’s electoral pledge for a safe and clean energy policy was so popular during the presidential campaign,” said Daul Jang, a senior climate & energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.
“We are living in a different world from the 1970s when nuclear power kicked-off in Korea. Incidents such as the Fukushima disaster, the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Gyeongju 2016 and the worsening fine dust pollution in large cities all became critical turning points for people to realise that safety and health are of foremost value. Nuclear and coal are clearly two of the most unsafe and polluting energy resources,” said Jang.
“Wind and solar energy will account for over a third of the world’s power generation by 2040 so President Moon’s promise to prioritise renewables as a source of national growth provides great hope. We can only expect this to strengthen the competitiveness of the Korean industry, both nationally and internationally.”
South Korea has 25 nuclear reacts which supply roughly a third of the country’s electricity. But the country’s enthusiasm for the energy source quickly waned following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns in its neighbor Japan.
In the following year, fake parts scandals prompted an investigation and spread fear over nuclear plants’ safety.
Recent 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 store spent nuclear fuels permanently.
Mr Moon hopes to gradually replace nuclear power with renewable energy sources which should supply at least 20 per cent of all electricity by 2030, according to government targets. ”
by James Rothwell