[EDITORIALS]Nuclear waste site mandatoryThe government has proposed that it will split into two stages the development of a nuclear waste treatment facility. Construction of the facility to store high-grade nuclear waste will be delayed, and a facility to store low-to-mid grade nuclear waste will be constructed first. This proposal is part of an effort to appease local residents at the designated site.
But this measure is only a temporary one. Storing the nuclear waste will still be a problem. The original plan was to build these two facilities together. The government has proposed this new plan to divide the facilities because they need to be built as soon as possible. The construction of a nuclear waste facility has been delayed for nearly 20 years. The latest delay resulted after fierce protests by local residents at the designated site of Buan in North Jeolla province. The storage capacity of our existing facilities will reach their limit in 2008. Considering it will take at least three to four years to build such facilities, we can no longer delay the construction.
Whether we like it or not, nuclear energy is a main source of electricity in our country. About 40 percent of the electricity in Korea comes from nuclear power. The reason we don’t need to worry so much about electricity shortages despite high fuel prices is because of nuclear power. If high oil prices continue and the Kyoto Protocol on global gas emission levels takes effect next year, nuclear power’s importance will become greater.
Despite this situation, civic groups have refused the government’s new proposal. Do they want to us live without electricity or do they want us to discard nuclear waste elsewhere? Of course, the civic group’s rejection of nuclear waste facilities also rises partly from the government’s unilateral manner in pursuing the project without properly informing residents about safety measures and risks, the layout of such facilities and the advantages of having a facility. The government should accept any opposing opinions within principles and redouble its efforts to persuade and convince the local residents.
It is also wrong for the civic groups and local residents to unconditionally oppose the project as they are doing now. Low-to-mid grade facilities are said to have a radiation level less than one-millionth of high-grade facilities. These facilities would also have a positive effect on a local area’s economy. Why would anyone refuse that?