Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Science | By Tyler Owen

S. Korea to scrap all plans to build new nuclear reactors

S. Korea to scrap all plans to build new nuclear reactors

South Korea's left-leaning president announced this morning that his government will abandon atomic energy in favour of renewable sources, the latest blow to the global nuclear industry following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in said on Monday the country will halt plans to build new nuclear power plants and will not extend the lifespan of existing plants, in a bid to phase out nuclear power.

"We will dump our atomic-centric power supply and open the door to the post-nuclear era", Moon said in a speech marking the decommissioning of the country's first nuclear reactor, the Kori-1.

"Korea's energy policy used to pursue low cost and efficiency, while people's lives, safety and environmental sustainability used to be treated lightly". Former President Lee Myung-bak promoted nuclear energy as part of the country's clean energy strategy and helped local companies win billions of dollars worth of deals to build nuclear reactors overseas. But it's time for a change.

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of-South Korea, one of the world's largest nuclear electricity producers, will scrap plans to add nuclear power plants, its president said June 19, signalling a shift in decades of reliance on nuclear energy.

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Moon stressed that the operational lifespan of aged nuclear power plants will not be extended.

Kori No. 1 is South Korea's first nuclear reactor to be decommissioned. Its nuclear power production from 25 nuclear plants in 2016 was the fifth-largest in the world, according to the World Nuclear Association.

The public's support for nuclear power has weakened since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown and a 2013 corruption scandal over fake safety certificates for reactor parts.

The city of Busan on South Korea's southeastern coast said Monday it will strengthen cooperation with the Argonne National Laboratory, a research institute funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, on decommissioning nuclear reactors following the shutdown of a commercial nuclear reactor in the city. Former President Lee Myung-bak promoted nuclear energy as part of its clean energy strategy and helped local companies win billions dollars of deals to build a nuclear reactor in United Arab Emirates. The Gyeongju natural disaster that struck South Korea in September 2016, which he acknowledged caused no deaths, has shown that Korea "is no longer a safe quake zone". South Korea is also searching for answers on how and where to store spent nuclear fuels permanently.

An energy ministry official estimated it will take at least 15 years to fully dismantle Kori No. 1, at a cost of about $571 million. The president aims to soon shut down the Wolsong No. 1 reactor, which is operating under an extension, after assessing the country's electricity demand and supply.

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