A catastrophe in waiting

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A catastrophe in waiting

If radioactive material suddenly leaked from either Korea, China or Japan, it would inevitably cause serious harm to the neighboring countries because of their close proximity to one another. All three countries have pursued similar policies to expand their use of nuclear energy. Korea, with 21 nuclear reactors, and Japan, with 55, are ranked at 5th and 3rd in the world, respectively, in terms of atomic power generation. China will soon become a giant with 228 reactors.

In other words, the three countries combined will have a total of 330 nuclear reactors. That bodes ill for the safety of the entire region, as it could increase the number of nuclear accidents and the likelihood of leaked radioactive material wreaking environmental havoc, including on the Korean Peninsula.

The radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan has already affected Korea. It has been detected here. Moreover, the Korea Meteorological Administration expects radioactive material to hit Korea directly from Japan on winds, refuting the government’s assurance that such a thing wouldn’t happen. We are somewhat relieved at the KMA’s reassurance that the tiny amount of radiation expected won’t affect Korea much.

China, however, is a different story. Based on its relatively loose attitude toward safety issues, and its short history of nuclear-power generation, China is much more likely to be the cause of nuclear accidents, accelerated by its desperate need for an abundant energy supply to sustain its fast-growing economy.

Our biggest worry is the wind, which almost always blows from west to east. In a nutshell, radioactive material leaked in China could arrive in Korea after 24 hours if it rides on the westerly wind. China’s plan to install a nuclear power plant near Mount Baekdu bordering North Korea has deepened our worry.

The only solution to avoid catastrophes is cooperation and coordination among the three countries. With this in mind, it is fortunate that foreign ministers from the three countries have agreed to bolster collaboration on safety at nuclear power plants.

The question is how to put such promises into action. Defying its earlier pledge, Japan discharged over 10,000 tons of radioactive water into the ocean Monday without notifying Korea. More important, however, is to establish a trilateral consultative body as soon as possible. We hope that our government will take the lead in designing a framework for a radiation-free Northeast Asia.
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