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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 20)

All News 06:59 June 20, 2017

End of nuclear power

President Moon Jae-in declared an end to the country's nuclear-oriented power generation plan Monday and said the nation will pave the way for a nuclear-free era.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the closure of the Kori 1 reactor in Busan, the liberal President said the government will drop existing plans to build new nuclear power plants. "We will not extend the lifespan of nuclear reactors either," he said.

Moon also said the government will seek to close the second-oldest Wolsong 1 reactor and hinted at halting the ongoing construction of two new nuclear reactors.

Given that Moon promised to phase out nuclear power during his election campaign, his Monday declaration is hardly surprising. Referring to the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, Moon rightfully warned against the irreversible damage resulting from nuclear accidents. He was also right when he said more Western countries have been cutting their reliance on nuclear power.

The government has lots of things to do after the oldest reactor ceased operations. It will take 20 years to move the used nuclear fuel, demolish related buildings and other facilities at the plant and restore the site to a radioactive-free area. It's worrisome that Korea has no permanent storage site for spent nuclear fuel. Decommissioning of the plant is estimated to cost 600 billion won, but experts actually expect the cost to reach 1 trillion won.

Moon's hasty policy to eliminate nuclear energy could cause serious side effects. First and foremost, it may be too early to dismantle nuclear power that is cost-effective and hardly emits air pollutants. A bigger problem is that there might be disruptions in our electricity supply if the nuclear power plants are halted rashly.

Moon vowed to promote renewable energy to offset the possible energy vacuum, but that is easier said than done. Given that nuclear energy accounts for 30 percent of the nation's power generation, it is necessary to map out an elaborate energy road map. The new administration must be careful not to cause disruptions in the power supply and bring about electricity bill hikes with half-baked nuclear power policies.
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