A rejection of nuclear phase-out
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
A miracle happened in Taiwan on Saturday. The people scrapped the nuclear phase-out policy of the progressive administration. Taiwan holds a referendum for major issues when it holds local elections. The Tsai Ing-wen administration’s destructive policy was harshly judged by the people.
Due to her administration’s drastic nuclear phase-out policy, Taiwanese faced a massive increase of carbon dioxide as a result of the rapid expansion of coal and gas powered generation. As of midnight on Saturday, the electicityMap — which presents real-time carbon dioxide emissions per Kilowatt hour of electricity generated in major countries — showed that Taiwan had a carbon intensity of 566 grams. It was producing 10 gigawatts of electricity with coal and 8 gigawatts with gas, while solar and wind power generation produced less than one gigawatt. The dream of the nuclear phase-out and renewable energy policy was splendid, but the reality Taiwan faced was a skyrocketing increase of emissions. The rage was also fueled after 60 percent of the entire country experienced a blackout last year due to the malfunctioning of a gas-power plant.
On the electicityMap, carbon dioxide emissions of other countries were also displayed. Germany, which promotes renewable energy and has a nuclear phase-out policy, had a carbon intensity of 497 grams, while England, which promotes both renewable and nuclear energy, was at 364 grams. France, whose main power resource is nuclear energy, was at 100 grams.
While Germany is a dream country for nuclear phase-out activists in Korea, the index shows that it is a country with the worst air in Western Europe.
Carbon dioxide is the major culprit in the production greenhouse gases and fine dust, and thus in global warming. The Paris Agreement aims to limit the temperature increase by 2100 to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and Taiwan and Germany are directly defying the climate accord.
Now is the time to talk about Korea. Kim Su-hyun, the Blue House policy chief, is acting as the priest, while President Moon Jae-in is worshiping the cult of nuclear phase-out.
Taiwan imported nuclear energy technology from the beginning, while Germany has many other competitive technologies. As a result, the damage from the nuclear phase-out policy is limited. On the other hand, Korea’s nuclear energy technology — as with semiconductors and smartphones — is one of the few areas in which we are the most competitive in the world. Therefore, the fallout is wide and fundamental. The violent and rapid nuclear phase-out program of the Moon administration has engulfed many nuclear plants over the last 18 months. Right now, it is about to declare that the Shin Hanul reactors No.3 and 4 in Uljin, North Gyeongsang, will be scrapped.
If the two reactors are scrapped, the facilities so far built by Doosan Heavy Industries at the cost of over 500 billion won ($442.9 million) will become useless. Over 1,000 nuclear professionals at Doosan will either lose jobs or have to find new careers. That’s not all. A total of 700 subcontractors will go out of business and their 100,000 workers will lose jobs. Furthermore, the ecosystem of the nuclear energy industry, with design and component making, will be completely destroyed. Even if an overseas bid is won, it is impossible to supply the plant without domestic technology and manpower.
Moon is leaving for the Czech Republic to export Korea’s nuclear energy technology this week. It is good news, but it is a show.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 26, Page 30