Commission on Shin Kori 5, 6 is given its orders

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Commission on Shin Kori 5, 6 is given its orders

A nine-member commission collecting public opinion on whether to permanently halt construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear reactors in Ulsan was launched by the government on Monday.

The Office for Government Policy Coordination, under the prime minister’s office, announced the members of this commission, who are experts from various fields, although not from the energy or nuclear industries. They are supposed to canvass public opinion over 90 days to determine whether to suspend the construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear plants, which is 28.8 percent complete.

This panel will select a group of citizen jurors, who will make a recommendation on the reactor construction by Oct. 21.

Hong Nam-ki, minister of government policy coordination, said in a briefing at the government complex in central Seoul, “The government will limit the activity of the commission to producing a decision on the issue of the construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors within three months from today, Oct. 21, and accept its decision.”

Their mandate follows a decision made by the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation (KHNP) to temporarily suspend construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 nuclear plants earlier this month.

President Moon Jae-in, who wants to wean Korea off of nuclear energy, in a cabinet meeting on June 27 decided to suspend construction of the two reactors for the time being, a decision which has prompted controversy.

Former Supreme Court Justice Kim Ji-hyung, 59, was named chairman of this commission, according to the office.

Kim served as a justice on the top court from 2005 to 2011 during the President Roh Moon-hyun administration. He was associated with a group of justices referred to as the “Eagle Five” and known for progressive-minded rulings.

“Based on his legal experience and knowledge and continued background in resolving societal conflicts, he [Kim] was determined to be the most suitable person to chair the panel in a fair, objective and neutral manner in the process of gathering public opinion,” Hong said.

The eight other members of the commission are experts from four fields: humanities and society; science and technology; surveys and statistics; and conflict management.

Energy and nuclear experts were deliberately excluded from the commission.

The commission has three women and five men who were selected from a shortlist of 29 experts.

Three of them are in their 30s - chosen to represent the younger generation that will live with the consequences of the decisions - while the rest are in their 40s and 50s.

They include professors from the University of Suwon, Kyung Hee University and Sookmyung Women’s University as well as Ryu Bang-ran, vice president of the Korean Educational Development Institute.

The commission held its first meeting Monday.

Over the next three months, the commission will conduct surveys and hold public hearings to draw in public opinions in a transparent, objective manner, according to Hong.

Paik Un-gyu, the new minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, backed the Moon administration’s energy initiative in his first press conference following his inauguration ceremony.

“The government through its coal-free, nuclear-free policy is preparing for the long-haul, drawing a road map that extends beyond 60 years,” Paik said, addressing concerns that the nuclear-free policy was being rushed. “We will have to undertake the process of gathering public opinion on Shin Kori 5 and 6, but fundamentally, we should not build new reactors and not extend the operations of nuclear plants which have run their course.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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