[EDITORIALS]Living with nuclear wasteThe government has selected four locations in the eastern and western coastal areas as construction sites for nuclear waste processing plants. Residents in those areas have already reacted against the selection by staging rallies and environmental groups have joined hands with them. The protests herald rough sailing of the project, making it difficult to say whether the sites will be decided before early next year as planned.
Construction of nuclear waste processing facilities are urgent, if we see things objectively. Korea has been operating nuclear power plants for the last 25 years. Various materials contaminated by nuclear waste from those plants have been stored temporarily within the compounds of each plant. But these depositories will start overflowing by 2008 and construction of processing facilities will take five years. Therefore, the plan should be finalized as soon as possible.
The project has remained dormant for the past 10 years. That is partly because of residents' opposition to the project, but it was also because of inept government measures to cope with local opposition. The previous instances of failures include giving up Anmyeon Island because of strong local opposition and discarding Guleop Island after finding an active fault plane there. Both cases resulted in bitter experiences.
Korea has 18 nuclear plants in operation, and some 40 percent of Korea's power generated relies on those 18. It is imperative that we take care of the nuclear waste from those plants for Koreans to enjoy the merits of the nuclear power generated by the plants.
In order to break the impasse, the government must persuade residents by convincing them with reliable data. It is natural that residents whose interests hinge on the plan oppose it. The problem lies in the government's inability to persuade people and to overcome difficulties.
The government should give maximum support to residents near the plants. Even if waste processing plants are disliked, contaminated materials have to be stored somewhere in Korea. Residents should understand national projects and make accommodations.