Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Sci-tech | By Doreen King

South Korea's president vows to end reliance on nuclear power

South Korea's president vows to end reliance on nuclear power

Argonne, first formed in 1942 as part of the Manhattan Project that produced America's first nuclear bomb, is known to hold the world's leading technologies related to atomic power. He also pledged to shut old coal power plants and stop building new coal plants. During his campaign, Moon vowed to review plans to add new eight nuclear reactors, including the part-completed Shin Kori No.5 and Kori No.6.

"We will end the nuclear-oriented power generation plan and pave the way for a nuclear-free era", Moon said at an event marking the closure of the Kori No.1 nuclear reactor in Busan, some 300 kms (186 miles) southeast of Seoul. "We will completely scrap construction plans for new nuclear reactors that are now under way", the South Korean leader said, adding the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has "clearly proved that nuclear reactors are neither safe, economical nor environmentally friendly".

The announcement from Moon could generate controversy in South Korea, where opinion is divided over nuclear power generation.

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He also said the government will seek to shut down the country's second-oldest nuclear reactor, the Wolsong No 1, as soon as possible depending on the country's power supply conditions. Its nuclear electricity production was the fifth-largest in the world, according to the World Nuclear Association.

South Korea is one of the few countries that have also exported its nuclear reactor technology. Nuclear safety reemerged as a major issue for the public after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan in 2011, caused by an quake and tsunami. Currently, South Korea derives about 30 percent of its electricity from 25 commercial nuclear reactors. He said the government will now "actively nurture safe and clean energy industries", including renewables and LNG power generation.

The conservative administrations of former presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye both pushed for nuclear reactors.

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Many reactors are located dangerously close to residential areas in the densely-populated nation, Moon said, warning of "unimaginable consequences" in case of a nuclear meltdown.

Recent earthquakes in southeastern South Korea also dented public support in the country that was long believed to be safe from earthquakes. However, it would take some time for South Korea to build up its generating capacity from renewables and it is likely to have to rely on gas to meet power demand.

Decommissioning Kori Unit 1, meanwhile, is expected to take 16 years at a cost of about $600 million.

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