Dirtiest power plants to be shut for all of June

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Dirtiest power plants to be shut for all of June

The government will temporarily shut down eight coal-powered power plants that have been operating for 30 years or more in an effort to reduce air pollution.

The plants will be shut down for the month of June and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and Ministry of Environment will see what kind of impact that has in reducing air pollution.

The Trade Ministry said there are 10 coal-fueled power plants in the country that have been operating for more than 30 years, and it will try to shut them all down by the end of this administration’s five-year term.

Two of the plants were excluded from the temporary shutdown because they were needed to supply energy in their regions.

“After the temporary shutdown we will have them closed in the spring, which is a non-peak period, starting next year,” said Kim Sung-yeol, a director at the Trade Ministry.

“We will start negotiations with all 10 old power plants,” he continued.

Korea has 53 coal-powered thermal power plants. They discharge a combined 170,000 tons of pollutants. Discharge by the 10 oldest plants accounts for about 20 percent of that amount, or 33,000 tons.

The capacity of the 10 oldest power plants is relatively small and the Trade Ministry believes the shutdowns won’t affect the energy supply significantly.

Trade Ministry data shows that the 10 plants only account for 3.1 percent of total electricity generated in the country.

During the month of the temporary shutdown, the environment and trade ministries will measure the changes in air pollution in the regions where the plants are located as well as metropolitan regions nearby.

The plants will be on standby and able to be brought back into operation in case they are needed in an emergency situation.

“We expect the pollutants discharged by thermal power plants to drop 3 percent this year when compared to 2015 and by 18 percent in 2022,” said Hong Dong-gon, a director at the Environment Ministry.

Tuesday’s announcement came after President Moon Jae-in ordered a temporary shutdown of the 10 coal-powered power plants earlier in May.

According to the presidential office, air pollutants produced by the 10 plants account for 19.4 percent of the pollutants discharged by the country’s 59 power plants.

A Blue House official said the 59 plants contribute 14 percent of total fine dust pollution, although this varies depending on the weather.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]
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