Going nuclear the only optionThe government has named Yeongdeok in North Gyeongsang and Samcheok in Gangwon as final candidate cities to host new nuclear reactors despite its reactor expansion plan having met with strong opposition in the wake of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan in March, which was spurred by a monstrous earthquake and tsunami. The main opposition camp and environmental organizations are demanding the government scrap the plan and seek alternative solutions to its energy needs.
The public has become fearful of radioactive contamination and other potential risk factors related to the use of nuclear reactors since the meltdown in Fukushima. As such, the government must campaign harder to appease the public and lessen its anxiety. It must also enhance its communication with residents near the new construction sites in Yeondeok and Samscheok. Most of all, it must do its best to ensure safety at present and future nuclear-powered grids.
To alleviate public jitters, it must put safety first, disclose information on the progress of construction and welcome international surveillance.
It seems that the reactors are the only really viable option to secure the necessary supply of electricity. Of all the nation’s power plants, nuclear reactors account for 31 percent of the energy supplied. If one or two break down, the country would be faced with a power crisis. It is not yet feasible to turn to recyclable sources of new energy or fossil fuels because of the costs and environmental hazards. For example, it costs nearly five times as much to produce petroleum or liquid natural gas as it does to power a reactor.
Few consumers would accept a steep hike in utility charges. The higher cost would also take its toll on overall economic activities in the nation. Meanwhile, resorting to recyclable energy such as solar power is also unrealistic considering the cost of building new facilities and developing the necessary manufacturing technology.
Korea is already struggling to meet its energy needs. This led to a temporary power outage in September that hit petrochemical production complexes in Yeosu, South Jeolla, and Ulsan, as well as other businesses and the public. And authorities have warned of the possibility of a rolling blackout this winter if heating demand peaks as the backup ratio is hovering at around 4 percent - far below the 15 percent level that is considered stable.
So the public has two choices: accept the plan for the two new reactors or welcome higher utility bills and more power disturbances.