The power of persuasionThe Nuclear Safety and Security Commission yesterday approved the government’s plan to reactivate the Gori-1 nuclear power reactor in Busan. The accident prone plant has been shut down for three months since the discovery of a serious technical problem. Thanks to the nuclear safety watchdog’s assessment that Gori-1 is safe, authorities can restart the reactor anytime.
However, residents in the area and environmental advocacy groups believe the reactor is unsafe and remain vehemently opposed to a restart. Some hard-core civic groups insist it be shut down for good.
Such an attitude is problematic. The uproar over the reactor began in March, when the plant’s electricity supply was interrupted because of a malfunctioning emergency power generator and subsequent attempts to cover up the incident.
At the time, the nuclear commission ordered the shut down of the reactor immediately and began its own inspection - along with a special inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency - in an effort to satisfy the concerns of residents and environmental groups. They should respect the IAEA’s conclusion that the reactor is good to go.
Moreover, many independent experts participated in the commission’s safety inspection, with other experts - recommended by residents and advocacy groups - observing the inspection on three occasions.
Opposition for the sake of opposition lacks credibility, and opposition groups should trust the commission’s conclusion.
However, the government would be wise not to restart the reactor immediately. Despite strong evidence of safety, it’s better for government officials to try to persuade the opponents to accept their plan.
After all, the government is largely culpable for the nuclear accident and the uproar resulting from its naive attempt to conceal it. That’s why the opposing camp’s resistance is somewhat understandable.
The minister of knowledge economy’s visit to the area to persuade opponents is laudable. He must clear all the suspicion by having a dialogue with them. The government’s touted principle of non-interrupted operation of nuclear reactors must also yield to the safety issue. No doubt many reactors will be decommissioned after 30 years in service. If the government wants to avoid making the same mistakes, it must prioritize safety and persuade local people.