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South Korea is eyeing independence from nuclear energy, to be implemented gradually over the next six decades, as it seeks to switch to safer clean energy sources. The country’s Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu said at a conference in Seoul today that "There is a need to move away from the energy scheme of the past, which focused on promoting nuclear power plants."
So far, as part of this shift away from nuclear power and into renewables, the government shut down a nuclear power plant built in the 1970s and temporarily suspended the construction of two new ones. There are 24 nuclear reactors in operation across the country and another four under construction.
The phase-out of nuclear power generation capacity was a pledge that South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in made before the elections. Last month, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy outlined the main policy points of the shift from fossil fuels to renewables with a special emphasis on the coordination between industrial and environmental policies to secure the best results.
Coal will be the first to go under the new government plan: by 2030 coal-fired power plants will be gone and improvements in the efficiency of the remaining facilities should reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030. By that year, Seoul aims to raise the share of renewable sources in the energy mix to a fifth.
Environmental concerns are not the only driver behind South Korea’s shift to renewables. The country, according to 2015 figures, imported 98 percent of the oil, gas, and coal it used. This makes it one of the biggest oil and gas importers globally – a dependency that certainly wouldn’t sit well with any government.
At the moment, according to Climate Action, crude oil and oil products account for 41 percent of South Korea’s primary energy consumption, followed by coal at 31 percent, and natural gas at 14 percent. Nuclear power supplies 13 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.