[EDITORIALS]Why we need nuclear powerThe government plans to scale back the nation’s reliance on nuclear plants for its electricity. Originally, plans called for the share of the nation’s electricity generated by nuclear plants ― a figure that currently stands at 28 percent ― to reach 34.6 percent by 2015. Instead, the target for that year is now 30.9 percent. For this reason, the government says it will not build more nuclear plants, except for the eight that have long been in the plan. Due to opposition by environmental groups, the construction of the New Gori 1 and New Gori 2 plants, which had been scheduled to start in 2002, has yet to begin. But can we afford to reduce the share of power produced by nuclear plants?
Korea imports 97 percent of its energy. In the first 11 months of this year, the nation spent $44.4 billion on imported crude oil, coal and natural gas. Due to higher international crude oil prices, importing energy has become a heavier burden. In addition, crude oil is being exhausted globally, and if the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change takes effect, it will become more difficult to use fossil fuel. The government says it will expand the percentage of electricity generated with renewable sources, such as water power, to 13.9 percent. But this is not realistic. Currently, only 2.1 percent of our electricity comes from such sources. What’s more, Korea’s geography is unsuitable for generating power with water or wind.
Currently, 434 atomic power plants in 31 countries supply 16 percent of the world’s power. Thirty-six plants are now under construction, and another 28 plants are in the planning stages. France relies on nuclear plants for 75 percent of its electricity. Even the United States, rich in resources, has announced it will extend the period of operation of its nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, Korea, with its insufficient natural resources, irresponsibly plans to cut back on nuclear power, yielding to its opponents with no alternative proposals. Ask those who object to nuclear power whether they can offer any alternatives.
For Korea, nuclear power is not a choice but a necessity. The environment is important, but cheap and safe energy is necessary for the nation’s competitiveness. The government should make efforts to persuade civic groups and the public to understand the safety, productivity and necessity of atomic power.