[ROSTRUM]Nuclear power is the solutionBecause international crude oil prices are over $40 per barrel, a record high, the domestic stock market is fluctuating. In addition, Iraq’s suspension of crude oil exports some time ago is expected to cause a further surge in the oil price and be a big blow to our economy. Experts on international oil prices forecast that high oil prices will continue, as a result of attacks on pipelines in Iraq, the second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.
Such a hike in oil prices could be fatal to our economy. According to an analysis of data from the International Energy Agency by the Korea International Trade Associ-ation, when the oil price increases $5 per barrel, our trade surplus will decrease by $5.5 billion, and gross domestic product will drop by $605.2 billion. It is no exaggeration to say that our economy is swayed by a $5 oil price change.
This is a natural consequence of our energy supply/demand structure. With its industrial structure of large imports of crude oil and a high dependency on foreign energy, our country is the most adversely affected by rising oil prices among Asian countries, even Japan and Taiwan.
Last year, we imported more crude oil than China, but our energy efficiency was less than half of Japan’s. Japan has consistently made public-private cooperative efforts to implement its “Provincial Energy-Saving Strategy” in order to increase its energy efficiency. Those efforts began with the first oil shock in 1970. But our country, made complacent by low oil prices, neglected to make any efforts to improve energy efficiency. There-fore, our companies and the government are substantially responsible for this third oil shock. An even more serious problem is that the international oil price is not likely to stabilize in the future, because of rising energy demand from developing countries.
China uses substantial amounts of petroleum from oil fields it has developed overseas. So does Japan, but we don’t have any capital or holdings to develop oil fields.
We need to expand the proportion of nuclear power in our energy supply; that ratio stands at 40 percent now. But many people tend to think that nuclear power generation is “outdated.”
China plans to place an order for four new nuclear power plants and build 100 large nuclear plants in the longer term. The United States also is making active efforts to develop future-generation nuclear power plants to lead the export market, while pursuing a stable supply of energy through efficient use of nuclear power plants now on line and through reform of their economic efficiency and safety. Nuclear power is the “brain energy” which generates minimum waste and produces maximum energy by using a minimum of natural resources.
France, an energy-poor country as we are, hardly feels the crisis of changes in oil prices because it supplies 75 percent of its power consumption through nuclear power generation. Indeed, France exports electricity to nearby countries. If we change the proportion of nuclear power upward to 70 percent, like France, we can decrease dependency on foreign energy by more than 30 percent and save a vast amount of foreign exchange. Fortunately, we are technologically independent in nuclear power generation and have internationally competitive technology and manpower. We have no more time to lose. The world has now entered the age of an energy war.
* The writer is the president of Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Chang In-soon