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Critical week for Korea’s nuclear energy

The fate of two incomplete nuclear reactors ― Shin-Kori 5 and 6 ― will be decided this week.

The decision, which will be announced Friday, is likely to profoundly affect the future of Korea’s nuclear energy.

The review committee, which consists of 471 ordinary citizens, held the final discussion about whether to continue the construction of the two reactors, which has been suspended since July.

After voting, the members will report the results to the government, which vowed to accept it.

During his presidential campaign earlier this year, President Moon Jae-in promised to cancel the project and establish a foundation to phase out all of the country’s nuclear power plants over the next 40 years.

Last week, Moon said he could not push ahead with his pledge because of a sharp division of opinions. Then he noted he will “follow the results no matter what.”

Over the past three months, the members have collected opinions from experts in different areas and interest groups to examine the merits and demerits of building additional nuclear reactors.

Environmental groups have claimed the costs of nuclear risks and waste disposal are significant and yet they are not properly estimated.

They have also criticized that most nuclear reactors are situated in the southern part of the country, saying past administrations tried to secure energy for its capital region at the expense of the people’s safety in the southern area. In fact, including the two reactors on hold, 10 are located near Busan and Ulsan, the two largest cities in South Gyeongsang Province.

With time ticking toward the final call, members of Friends of the Earth Korea and other environmental groups held rallies across the country to spread their messages.

Meanwhile, pro-nuclear experts have urged the government not to rush to a decision if it wants to avoid an energy crisis.

They have claimed the risks of nuclear energy have been exaggerated by environmentalists and the media.

They also consider nuclear reactors and technologies to build them as Korea’s valuable asset, which can continue to provide “clean and stable” energy for its own people and beyond.

They say the government should not waste the country’s highly competent technologies and skills with a radical energy policy shift, saying they should be exported to other countries in need of effective energy sources.

Today, Korea has 24 nuclear reactors in operation, from which it gets more than 30 percent of its power.

Source: The Korea Times

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