Atomic advantageKorea’s power rates have remained virtually unchanged for the past decade, with no big fluctuations. The stable electronic bills are playing a pivotal role in absorbing the shock of rising raw material costs in the global market. Last year, Korea’s electric bills were 77.85 won ($0.08) per kilowatt hour, much lower than the 123.78 won in Japan and 82.27 won in the United States. The key to this success lies in technological advancements in atomic power generation.
Of course, the international price of uranium increased 13 times over what it was a decade ago. However, at a nuclear plant uranium accounts for just 2.5 percent of the costs of power generation. At thermal power plants, coal and oil account for 70 percent of the plant’s total costs.
Environmentalists protest that uranium will run out some day, just like fossil fuels. But global uranium reserves, which exceed 15 million tons, are ample enough to get by for more than 230 years. Resource-poor countries are relying on atomic power generation as one of the most stable sources of energy.
Oil or coal has become a lethal weapon that can pose a major threat to nations that lack natural resources. Alternative energies such as biofuels or wind or solar power are still expensive, and there is a long way to go in terms of commercialization. For the time being, there are few alternative energy sources other than atomic power.
Fortunately, President Lee Myung-bak said on April 19, “It is dangerous to insist on developing fossil fuel power generation. If we place a greater deal of weight on the development of atomic power, we will succeed in providing energy in a stable manner.” This is good to hear. The government should be actively overhauling energy policies across the board to expand the scope of atomic power.
Environmentalists should renew their awareness of atomic power. Atomic technologies have undergone remarkable development. The Gori-1 nuclear power reactor was built 30 years ago, but it will run for 10 more years thanks to Korea’s top-notch maintenance and repair technologies. Korean communities were also wise enough to decide on where to dispose of nuclear waste through a plebiscite.
Korea’s environmental groups should open up to the idea of nuclear power plants. These days, environmental organizations in developed countries do not make indiscriminate criticisms, and try to accept reality as it is. We can no longer be a slave to oil from the Middle East.