During his presidential election promises, Korean President Moon Jae-in insisted a ‘nuclear zero’ project during the presidential election promises. Since taking office, his government has stuck to its ‘anti-nuclear energy policy’ to make President Moon’s campaign pledge a reality. To make up for problems that his ‘nuclear zero’ project might have created in terms of energy shortages, the government tried to import natural gas from Russia through North Korea's oil pipelines, but this attempt has failed. Meanwhile, as the summer heat wave continues, the reserve rate of electricity supply has reached one digit in two years, which has raised concerns over the recurrence of a massive blackout like the one occurred in 2011. In response, the government, which has consistently stood by its anti-nuclear facility policy, has backpedaled and decided to restart the Hanul no.4 nuclear reactor. Maintaining nuclear power plants is inevitable in order to meet the people's need for power. Furthermore, nuclear reactors are one of Korea's few strategic energy assets. For these reasons, the current government's anti-nuclear facility policy should be abandoned.
First, nuclear power has been the main driving force of South Korea’s economy to date. It stands to reason, therefore, that an anti-nuclear energy policy could result in a huge economic loss. According to Jung Geun-mo, the former Minister of Science and Technology Department, nuclear power has been the main force behind Korea's rise to the world's 10th largest economic power over the past three decades. Looking ahead, nuclear power is also expected to create jobs and keep the country afloat for the next few decades in the 600-trillion-won global nuclear power plant market. In addition, experts such as, Joo Han-kyu, a professor of Atomic Engineering Department at Seoul National University, say that nuclear power generation is much more economical than liquefied natural gas (LNG) or other renewable energy, even considering the cost of post treatment such as waste. That’s because nuclear power has a lower unit cost than other forms of energy, and there is little change in the price. Without careful consideration of nuclear power’s importance to the Korean economy, declaring an anti-nuclear facility policy would almost inevitably cause huge economic losses.
Secondly, the anti-nuclear facility policy will result in an increase in electricity taxes. Based on a survey by the U.S. Department of Energy, German citizens have seen a 78 percent rise in electricity costs over the decade from 2004 to 2014. That is about 3.8 times higher than Korea's electricity bill, which would be difficult for the public to afford. In addition, Korea has recently experienced a surge in the rate of air-conditioner usage due to the severe heat it has experienced. As a result, people have been forced to bear the burden of higher electric bills for months. Since there is a progressive electric rate system in Korea, which means the more electricity is used, the burden on the public’s household budgets has been even tighter. Under these circumstances, if the anti-nuclear power plant policy inevitably triggers an increase in electricity taxes, the economic pain that people will feel could be sharp.
Lastly, Korean nuclear power plants aresafer than other countries. To understand nuclear power safety, we need to understand the definition of ‘containment building’. The proper name of a reactor’s containment building is ‘primary reactor containment building’, which is installed to prevent the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere beyond the allowable level in the case that an accident occurs at the reactor. The containment wall’s thickness at the Fukushima plant was 16cm. The containment wall’s thickness at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island site, where a nuclear power plant accident occurred in 1979, was 60cm. In this facility, there were no radioactive leaks or casualties, because the thick containment buildings survived the hydrogen explosion. Compared to Japan and the United States, Korea's standard nuclear power plant containment is very safe, with a thickness of 120cm. People who support an anti-nuclear facility policy will object that the Fukushima nuclear accident was caused by an earthquake-induced tsunami, not by an earthquake directly. But this is not a sufficient reason to worry about nuclear containment in Korea. Uljin and Wol-seong nuclear power plants are safely located at higher altitudes to minimize the impact of a tsunami. In addition, the nuclear power plants have 10-meter-high shield. So even in the event of a natural disaster, nuclear plants in Korea are safe.
Thus, the negative nature of the anti-nuclear power policy can be identified by considering the economic margin nuclear power in South Korea will generate, the secondary effects of the nuclear power plant policy, and the relative safety of the reactors themselves. For all of these reasons, which mean more jobs, less tax generation, and a reliable long-term energy supply over the life of the reactors, the government needs to revisit its nuclear power plant policies. Nuclear power plants are a major economic engine for Korea and are a material resource that directly connects to people's lives. While there may be evidence for the government's strong argument, sufficient consideration should be given to realistic conditions rather than simply insisting on opinions. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss the policy of anti-nuclear power plants again based on the advantages of maintaining various nuclear power plants.
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