Do you remember the ‘Shin Kori Units 5 and 6 Public Opinion Committee’? The ‘Shin Kori Units 5 and 6 Public Opinion Committee’ worked for 89 days, and on 33 of those days, 471 citizens participated as representatives of the people. Finally, the committee decided to resume the construction of Shin Kori Units 5 and 6. But the results did not simply mean the committee decided against the withdrawal of the nuclear facilities. Rather, the decision to resume the construction of Shin Kori Units 5 and 6 was reached because some of the construction work had already been completed, and there were many special conditions to consider. Therefore, the result of the committee’s work cannot be said to represent the public’s opinion concerning the withdrawal of nuclear facilities from the Republic of Korea. In this regard, there is still a controversy over the construction of the nuclear plants. Since nuclear power plants are a modern frontier of science and technology, however, there is a limit to the public’s ability to predict and analyze the effects that nuclear power plants will have on the entire nation, or even on the local community. Therefore, CAH will present pros and cons on this issue, organizing the related disputes around expert opinions.
Do you know about 'high-level radioactive waste'? ‘High-level radioactive waste’ is a non-reusable residual product of a nuclear power plant. High-level radioactive waste is extremely dangerous because of its high concentration of radioactivity. Can you believe that the amount of high-level radioactive wasted created every year would fill dozens of football fields? Probably not. This is obviously true, though. It is also true that we have been unconsciously exposed to enormous risks due to the threats posed by our nuclear power plants. To address these risks, and to protect our right to live in a safe environment, the elimination of nuclear facilities is essential.
First, the problem of radioactive waste can be fatal as long as nuclear power plants maintain their current method of nuclear fission. All nuclear power plants produce energy through nuclear fission. In the process of nuclear fission, electricity is generated through radioactive energy. But what happens to the radioactive materials whose energy conversion has ended? They are reprocessed and buried, as they cannot be recycled. This is where the problem arises. This material is high-level radioactive waste, which is very dangerous, releasing more than 99% of radiation. Furthermore, the radioactivity can take many thousands of years to disappear. Yet most radioactive waste sites in Korea have already reached their saturation point, and the saturation rate at the ‘Kori nuclear power plant’ is already at 86.4%, which means that radioactive waste can no longer be stored as early as 2019. Thus, continued construction and operation of nuclear power plants is equivalent to declaring to all Koreans that these production facilities will produce electricity so long as security guarantees. Yet no one, neither the current members of the radiation industry nor those in favor of nuclear power plants, has proposed effective measures for the problem of storing and disposing of the radiative waste that the Shin Kori units will create.
Second, it is not true that the effects of creating jobs from nuclear power plants will disappear if nuclear power is replaced with renewable energy. A look at the number of workers in renewable energy industries will change this perception. Around the world, investment in renewable energy is growing rapidly. Likewise, the size of related industries have shown higher growth than industries related to other energy sources. As of 2016, renewable energy accounts for 24.5% of the world’s electricity generation, and, according to a report by the ‘Korea Institute for Green Energy Strategy,’ 350 billion dollars has been invested worldwide in renewable energy sources. That is more than double the 130 billion dollars invested in fossil fuels and nuclear power generation. Accordingly, jobs in the renewable energy industry have grown by an average of 8.3% per year, up from 7.24 million jobs in 2014 to 9.92 million in 2016. Along with these effects, the technology to dismantle nuclear power plants can be acquired in an earlier time than in other countries. Therefore, it can establish a unique position in the nuclear dismantling market at a time when current world nuclear power plants are aging.
Third, there are many safety issues surrounding nuclear facilities themselves that must be mentioned. Of course, nuclear power plant managers say that nuclear power plants have been built safely for various natural disasters. But so far, accidents happening at Korea's nuclear facilities alone show that the safety of nuclear facilities is not an easy matter to declare. The most recent case happened in June when 3.6 tons of heavy water leaked from the Wolsong nuclear power plants, exposing workers to radiation. In 2014, buildings at Kori nuclear power plant 4 overheated. Because nuclear power plants combine the risks of super-heating and radioactivity, even small accidents at a nuclear power facility can always lead to catastrophic consequences. Moreover, as most of the nuclear power plants in the Republic of Korea now extend along active fault lines in South Gyeongsang Province, there is already a strong possibility that a catastrophe, like the one that happened at the Fukushima nuclear plant, could occur, in the event of an earthquake or natural disaster. Considering that a disaster caused by a nuclear power plant could cost upwards of 200 trillion won, opposition to the anti-nuclear project is economically a poor decision too. Considering that the current annual budget of South Korea is about 400 trillion won, an accident like the one at Fukushima might cost half of the national budget to deal with.
In short, nuclear power plants are not acceptable because of the risks they pose, both the facilities themselves as well as the accompanying radioactive waste they produce. Furthermore, its economic feasibility is high enough to benefit from non-nuclear power plants, while choosing nuclear facilities goes against the times. By investing in renewable energy and new energy sources that are safe and have limitless potential for development, the nation can and should do more for the people to ensure a happy future.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >