[EDITORIALS]After the nuclear site vote

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[EDITORIALS]After the nuclear site vote

The location of the nation’s first permanent nuclear waste dump was decided in a vote yesterday by the residents of the candidate areas, although the winner was not yet known at press time late yesterday evening. This national project, which had been drifting for a long time, has finally been settled by directly asking the opinion of the site candidates’ residents.
Now there is one winner among the local governments of the four candidate sites ― Gyeongju, Pohang and Yeongdeok in North Gyeongsang province and Gunsan in North Jeolla province ― which had competed fiercely. All of them now should yield to the majority view.
The campaigns against the nuclear dump have not been viciously waged this time, unlike past efforts of opponents of a dump. But there have been many allegations of illegal campaigning, and environmental groups have argued that the vote should be nullified. Some local governments have also incited their residents’ antagonism against other regions. Now we have to minimize the problems in the aftermath of the vote. Environmental groups should stop stimulating conflicts between regions and residents. If the construction of a nuclear waste facility is stalled again, it would be a tremendous waste of national energy.
The nation’s 20 nuclear plants’ temporary storage space for medium- and low-level nuclear waste will be filled in 2008. Over the last 19 years, the government has attempted to find a permanent nuclear waste dump site seven times, but failed each time. That was because the designated sites were based on unilateral decisions by the central and local governments, stimulating serious opposition from residents. That was clearly seen in Buan two years ago, where some residents resorted to violence to stop the waste site from opening there. But this time, residents of four candidate areas welcomed the vote and the regional development funds that the government offered. The incentives, including a 300-billion-won ($288-million) government subsidy, led the local governments of the candidate sites to campaign too energetically, giving room for complaints from the losers. Even the local government of the selected site will not be entirely happy because there will be conflicts with neighboring jurisdictions.
There were a few problems in the voting, a rare procedure for this kind of decision. There was pressure by governments on voters, and there was a very large number of absentee ballots. Some changes are needed to curb intervention by government.
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