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South Korea looks to nuclear expansion in bid to meet climate targets

South Korea will expand the role of nuclear energy in order to meet its climate target.

President Yoon Suk Yeol’s new government will increase the portion of atomic power in the energy mix to meet its emissions reductions goal, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). It will maintain the target set by the previous administration to cut emissions by 40 per cent from 2018 levels by 2030.

Mr Yoon, who took office on May 10, touted nuclear energy throughout his presidential campaign, claiming it should be included in the country’s net-zero path along with renewable sources.

If the country kept former president Moon Jae-in’s nuclear phase-out plans and decarbonisation policies, the cost of electricity could jump fivefold from current levels by 2050, Mr Yoon’s office said in April.

South Korea, which gets more than 60 per cent of its electricity from coal and natural gas and another 30 per cent from nuclear, has pledged to reach climate neutrality by 2050. It has been struggling to boost the share of renewable sources, which account for less than 8 per cent of the mix.

Renewable energy will continue to be deployed but will be kept at a “reasonable level”, the government said.

Construction will resume on the Shin Hanul No. 3 and 4 reactors, which were scrapped under the Moon administration, and the government will allow older atomic units to seek to extend their lifetime, it said.
A detailed plan on how to achieve the NDC target with timelines and goals for different sectors will be announced after discussions with relevant people in the industry and a cost analysis, according to the statement.