South Korea bets on nuclear power, resuming construction of two reactors

By 2030, the Department of Energy wants nuclear power to account for at least 30% of the country’s electricity generation, a step up from its previous goal of 27%.

To deal with this, South Korea is resuming construction of two new reactors at the Hanul nuclear power plant on the country’s east coast. The construction of the two reactors has been halted since 2017, when former President Moon Jae-in came to power and pushed hard to phase out nuclear power.

But with a new president in power, South Korea’s nuclear industry is back in full swing.

Yoon Seok Yeol, who took over the role in May, criticized Moon’s stance on nuclear energy and voiced support for the industry throughout his campaign.

“Because of the overzealous drive to phase out nuclear power, the best nuclear technology in the world has been destroyed,” Yoon wrote in a Facebook post in February ahead of the election, adding that he wanted to “build a nuclear power plant.”

Work on the new reactors follows “the highest decision-making procedures of the Yun administration,” the Energy Department said Tuesday, adding that it will investigate how to handle “high-level radioactive waste.”

The Energy Department said on Tuesday that the country will continue to work towards phasing out coal and aims to reduce fossil fuel imports to 60% of the country’s total energy supply by 2030, down from 81.8% in 2021.

But investment in nuclear power can come at the expense of other renewable energy efforts, and the ministry has said its renewable energy targets will be “rebuilt.” He did not provide specific numbers for the new targets.

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“For an optimal result, it is necessary to determine the specific ratio of various energy sources, such as solar and wind (offshore) energy,” the ministry said. “The use of zero-carbon energy sources must take into account technological circumstances.”

He added that a “workable and reasonable energy balance” needs to be created.

During his presidency, Moon pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2050 and shift the balance of energy from nuclear power and fossil fuels to renewables and natural gas. Among his initiatives was an increase in renewable energy production and the use of electric vehicles.

The question of the use of nuclear energy around the world arose after the accident at the Japanese nuclear power plant “Fukushima Daiichi” after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Some countries, including Germany, have pledged to completely abandon it.

But in South Korea, nuclear power has long been big business. The country lacks natural resources and is heavily dependent on energy imports from other countries.

According to the World Nuclear Association, 25 domestic nuclear power plants provide about a third of South Korea’s electricity needs.

The country is also a major exporter of nuclear technology in the world and is involved in the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates.

Additional information from Reuters.