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Korea’s contradictory nuclear energy policy raises eyebrows

Gov’t eager to shut down nuclear plants, while seeking to build many abroad

The Moon Jae-in administration has been under constant criticism for its double standards on nuclear energy, as it shows completely different attitudes toward nuclear power plants at home and abroad, according to economists and energy analysts, Monday.

While abroad, Moon has been touting Korea’s nuclear plants as the world’s safest and most efficiently run, urging foreign governments to adopt the country’s nuclear reactors. But here at home, the Moon administration has been eager to shut down local plants, calling nuclear energy an environmentally harmful and outdated energy source, and instead stressed the use of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

This is a clear failure of the Moon administration’s energy policies, they said, highlighted further by a rapid overall decline in industrial productivity brought on by higher energy import costs.

Further complicating the issue is the ongoing criminal trials of energy ministry officials who were indicted for destroying evidence showing that the ministry sought to delegitimize the economic feasibility of its existing nuclear policy, in an orchestrated move to toe the line of the Moon administration.

The experts urged the Moon administration to promptly renounce the previous drives and make a course correction to better outline the country’s energy policies to limit economic fallout before it is too late.

“The government policy is exhibiting clear signs of faltering,” Seoul National University economist Lee In-ho said.

Nuclear energy is a stable, effective and efficient energy source and the government knows it, in Lee’s view. Yet, the only reason Moon and top policymakers are unable to reverse their policy is for fear of enormous political blowback, an unwanted development that could tank the legitimacy of a government grappling with an already considerably waning level of public support.

“Backpedaling at this late stage means essentially forgoing all power,” he added.

Moon promoting the country’s nuclear policies overseas is an indication of government incompetence and policy inconsistency, Lee said.

The scathing opinion is backed by comments made by Moon on his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, where he said Korea’s nuclear policy is “unmatched by its global peers in economic feasibility and safety.” Similar comments were made during summits with his Slovak, Polish and Czech counterparts last year.

Korea University professor of Resources and Energy Economics Park Ho-jeong said the government has failed to factor in how economical nuclear energy is compared to renewables.

“The current nuclear technology can supply energy in a stable manner at a price lower than what’s needed for renewables, a major competitive edge over solar and wind energies prone to extreme volatility in production volume due to weather conditions or hours ― let alone the lingering controversy over whether renewable energy is green at all,” the Korean Resource Economics Association president said.

Korea is feared to miss the rare opportunity to take the upper hand in the future energy market, both Lee and Park added, since it will take years for renewables to fully replace the much-lambasted nuclear technology as a stable source of energy.

“Europe, a group of countries known to not mind taking years or decades to deliberate on a contentious issue, is seeking to embrace nuclear energy as part of its green investments. The move is not without opposition, but it speaks volumes as to how rash and unprepared Korea was to outright abandon nuclear energy without long-term, viable alternatives in place,” Lee said.

Source: The Korea Times