A nuclear implosion
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
All industries have their own ecosystem. The Korean Wave, or Hallyu, owes its competitiveness to its solid ecosystem. There are many entertainment agencies training girl groups and boy bands, and many aspiring stars want to be picked by them. The emergence of BTS did not happen overnight. Korea has the knowhow to produce global stars thanks to Hallyu’s infrastructure. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Nuclear power plants were also developed within a vast ecosystem. The nuclear energy ecosystem began in Korea as experimental nuclear reactors were brought in during the Syngman Rhee administration. Nuclear energy departments were established at Seoul National University and Hanyang University to educate experts. Today Korea is technologically independent and has developed the commercial APR 1400 nuclear reactor to export to the UAE. Thanks to the accumulation of knowhow and manpower, Korea has a talent pool of nuclear energy engineers that is globally competitive.
However, the nuclear power ecosystem is rapidly collapsing. Cracks began to show when no one applied to Kaist’s nuclear energy major. The operation of working nuclear reactors was halted. By 2030, 10 reactors are to be closed and additional reactors will not to be constructed. Who would want to study nuclear technology under such circumstances?
In the field, technicians are rapidly disappearing. Kepco E&C, which designs nuclear power plants, will have 743 employees for nuclear plants in 2030, down from 1,062 last year, as a result of the government’s nuclear phase-out policy.
As projects decrease, workers are moving abroad. 12 key employees of Kepco have moved to a company related to nuclear power plants in the UAE since last year. The number of employees in charge of nuclear power plant maintenance at Kepco KPS are expected to decrease from 2,112 to 1,462 by 2030.
Nuclear plant operator Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power is expected to reduce nuclear power plant-related employees in Korea from 7,012 to 5,008 by 2030. Moreover, overseas employees will decrease from 1,467 to 346 if Korea fails to get overseas power plant orders.
President Moon Jae-in pushing a 21 trillion won ($18.6 billion) nuclear power plant sale in the Czech Republic this week. But does selling food that you don’t feed your children work?
Under the current administration, nuclear power plant exports to Britain and Saudi Arabia haven’t gone well. This is related to the governmnent’s nuclear phase out: once destroyed, it is hard to restore the ecosystem.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 27, Page 31