Gov’t to back off nuclear energy

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Gov’t to back off nuclear energy

Korea is likely to scale back its long-term plan to increase the country’s reliance on nuclear energy amid public opposition after the Fukushima disaster and a domestic scandal over counterfeit reactor parts.

Nuclear should account for 22 percent to 29 percent of power generation capacity by 2035, compared to a goal of 41 percent under the previous long-term plan in 2008, Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Friday.

The revision was proposed by a public-private working group on the national energy basic plan chaired by professor Kim Chang-seop of Gachon University. The group said it presented the proposal’s first draft of the Second National Energy Basic Plan (2013-35) and held a briefing Friday at the Gwacheon Government Complex.

The National Energy Basic Plan is reviewed every five years for the next 20 years.

Based on the policy proposal of the working group, the government plans to hold public hearings in October and November to gather the opinions of experts and the general public and determine a final draft in December.

Nuclear accounted for 26.4 percent of power-generating capacity as of the end of last year, after coal (31 percent) and LNG (28 percent).

“Although the new proposal seems to suggest reducing the portion of?nuclear power significantly when compared to the 2008 plan, there is no big difference in practice as nuclear power currently accounts for 26 percent and the new proposal aims at 22 to 29 percent,” said Kim, the group’s chairman.

Nevertheless, the proposal is expected to be a turning point in nuclear policy, which has been oriented toward expanding nuclear capacity since Korea’s first nuclear reactor - Gori No. 1 - was established in 1978, experts say.

The proposal for policy modification is in line with lower public acceptance of nuclear power plants along with the concern over safety due to frequent malfunctions and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“The draft presented the future direction for the proportion of nuclear power plants and specific action plans, such as closing aging reactors and whether to carry out planned construction of nuclear plants,” said Kim. “It will be included in the Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand.”

In order to reduce reliance on electricity, the working group also advised raising the price of electricity and cutting other types of energy, such as liquefied natural gas.

It also proposed an amendment alleviating taxes on LNG, which often serves as substitute for electricity and kerosene, the cheap fuel for the working class, while imposing new taxes on coking coal, which pollutes the environment.

In addition, the working group and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy presented blueprints for reducing electricity demand by more than 15 percent in 2035 through active demand management.

The working group maintained the primary goals for renewable energy use (11 percent) and the development of overseas resources (40 percent) in the first basic plan in 2008.

Because government plans tend to reflect the policy direction in the draft, the final plan is not expected to deviate significantly from the first draft’s framework.

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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