Dumping the reactor?The industry and energy ministry is readying to unplug the Wolsong 1 reactor before its legitimate life span ends in 2022 to keep true to President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promises to wean the country off of nuclear reactors.
Under its latest power supply and demand outline from 2017 to 2031, the Wolsong 1 reactor was excluded among the power generators. The Wolsong 1 went into service in 1982 and its 30-year life span was extended by another 10 years in 2012 by the country’s state nuclear safety regulator. But the reactor, which has been offline since May for refurbishing and upgrades, may not return to finish its extended mission.
No country in the world has shut down a reactor after it has been in use for 35 years. Of the 99 reactors active in the United States, 88 are in operation through extended life periods to 60 years. Half of them have been generating electricity for more than 40 years. Even the United States, an energy-rich nation sitting on larger shale oil reserves than the Middle East, maximizes the use of its reactors. American reactors run on light water whereas the four units in the Wolsong complex are based on the Canadian design of pressurized heavy water with natural uranium for fuel. Its operator, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation, maintains that the reactors are fully reliable due to extra care.
Despite the wasteful fuss it had caused by suspending the construction of Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors to expedite Moon’s campaign vows, the government is set on closing down the Wolsong 1 reactor regardless of the obvious financial toll. The government supply and demand estimates have been tweaked to meet its goal of phasing out nuclear reactors. In the latest eighth outline, the maximum electricity demand has been estimated at 100.5 gigawatts for 2030, reduced from the 113.2GW estimate two years ago.
How it came to conclude electricity demand will come down is beyond reason. As the fourth industrial revolution pans out, almost everything will run on power — from vehicles on the road to robotics. Companies are moving their data centers to cooler climate areas in Gangwon to save on power costs. The government must moderate its nuclear phase-out policy on economic — not political — reasons.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 13, Page 34