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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 24)

All News 07:07 June 24, 2022

End of nuclear phase-out
Yoon vows to revive atomic energy industry

President Yoon Suk-yeol has promised to rebuild the nuclear energy industry which has been devastated by his predecessor's nuclear phase-out policy over the past five years. This promise is part of Yoon's campaign commitment to resume construction of Shin Hanul reactors 3 and 4 and to export 10 nuclear reactors by 2030.

Yoon made the promise Wednesday when he visited a nuclear reactor production facility run by Doosan Enerbility in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. He became the first Korean president to go to such a plant. His visit carried significance as it means the reversal of liberal former President Moon Jae-in's ill-conceived drive to reduce the country's dependence on nuclear power. He has virtually declared Moon's policy a total failure.

He did not hesitate to denounce Moon's nuclear phase-out policy as "foolish." He said, "Had we not been foolish over the past five years and further reinforced the nuclear power ecosystem, we probably would not have any competitors now." Now is the time to learn from the policy failure and start all over again to get the reeling nuclear power industry back on track.

Yoon's scrapping of his predecessor's reckless and ideology-driven policy is a step in the right direction. The first thing Yoon should do is to shake off misconceptions about nuclear power generation which are still prevalent among environmental activists and liberal politicians. Korea has already gained an international reputation for its safe operation of nuclear reactors and development of advanced technologies. It also has many world-class companies, such as Doosan Enerbility, formerly known as Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, which supplies reactors, turbines, boilers and other nuclear equipment and facilities domestically and globally.

However, the country's nuclear energy ecosystem has collapsed due to the nuclear phase-out policy. Its reactor exports have come to a halt since 2009 when Korea snatched a project of building a nuclear power station in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many related firms have been driven out of business. On the contrary, China and Russia have been increasing their global nuclear energy market share by filling the void left by Korea.

The misguided policy has also undermined energy security, particularly in the face of soaring oil and gas prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A growing number of countries have begun to recognize the importance of nuclear energy amid the acute shortage of fossil fuels. The U.S., Britain and France and other economies are trying to rebuild nuclear reactors.

Nuclear power, of course, is not an ideal source of energy, compared to renewables such as solar and wind power. But it is seen as one of the most viable options to ensure a smooth energy transition. It can also help the country achieve its goal of net-zero carbon emissions to fight climate change.

We welcome the industry ministry's announcement of plans to reinvigorate the nuclear energy sector. The plans include an investment of 3.67 trillion won ($2.81 billion) in technology development over the next three years. The government said it will also commission 1 trillion won worth of nuclear-related projects to the private sector by 2025. As Yoon noted, the country should go all-out to win bids to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, Poland and the U.S.

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