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South Korea To Begin Phasing Out Nuclear Plants

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.

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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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  • SteveK9 on September 16 2017 said:
    This is not going to last as a policy, because it makes no sense whatever. S. Korea went to enormous effort to build up their nuclear expertise, starting with Combustion Engineering System 80 design. So much so, that they are successfully exporting 4 reactors of their own design to the UAE, and are (were?) hoping to build on that with more export deals. S. Korea is highly industrialized country, but they lack fossil fuel resources. Nuclear is a perfect match for them. Maybe the next political cycle will bring some sense.
  • Jim Hopf on September 15 2017 said:
    So many lies and inaccuracies to sort through (by the Koreans, not necessarily this author).

    Safer, clean energy sources? Nuclear is clean under any rational definition (no measurable public health impact, ever, outside the old Soviet Union, and negligible global warming impact). And statistics show nuclear to be the safest of all sources, even safer than solar and wind.


    A need to move away from nuclear plants? Why? Can he (Paik Un-gyu) give me a reason? What's not like about reliability, nor pollution or public health impact, no CO2 emissions, and no fuel imports?

    Foreign energy dependency being a reason to move away from nuclear and coal? While some renewables will be built, most of the coal and nuclear will be replaced by imported gas (which is more expensive than coal). Gas imports will not fall as a result of this policy. They will soar! We're now hearing about Trump, et al, making a massive US gas import deal with Korea, as a result of this.

    That is what is really going on, BTW. The very powerful world gas (and oil) industry flexing its muscles and influence. Basically installing a gas industry stooge as the president of Korea (and making a nuclear fear mongering movie, released just before the election).

    The only good news in the article is that they're planning to do this over a meaningless six-decade time frame. Also, the article says that coal will "go first", and that it will be gone by 2030. How much nuclear will there be in 2030? I'm very curious. What I had heard was that the plan was to cut both coal and nuclear in half. If true, this is a significant improvement, at least.

    Not only is Moon, et al, planning to replace non-polluting, non-CO2-emitting nuclear mainly with polluting, CO2-emitting gas, but he may destroy Korea's precious nuclear industry; one of the few national industries that has been able to build nuclear plants at low cost. This is a precious worldwide asset. If it withers, it will have large impacts all over the world, as it may significantly reduce world nuclear generation in the future, with more fossil fuel burning being the result. If they do kill off their domestic nuclear industry, it will stand out as an environmental crime of the century.

    Perhaps the world fossil (oil/gas) industry knows this, which is why they politically targeted Korea. Who paid for that movie??

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