A muddled nuclear policy
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The Moon Jae-in administration’s biggest dilemma is its nuclear phase-out policy. As it pushes the policy forward, the air is increasingly growing polluted and electricity prices are steadily rising while exports, industry and jobs are being destroyed. But the government cannot give up the policy because it made a pledge to its supporters. Thanks to the government’s nuclear phase-out policy, a group of people are making money off of the relevant business; they will loudly complain if the policy ends.
Unless the administration removes the eyesore now, it will worsen the irony and trigger the public to abandon the president. After listening to extreme environmentalists’ fear marketing, President Moon declared the nuclear phase-out policy. But only a year and a half later, he confessed that our nuclear plants had no accidents whatsoever over the last 40 years. The administration must clarify this now.
The Democratic Party, which remained silent over fears of possible attacks from Moon loyalists, finally delivered a different voice. Last week, Rep. Song Young-gil said the government must consider resuming the suspended construction of the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors in Uljin in return for reducing the aged coal power generation facilities. It seems like an appeal to the Blue House from a ruling party lawmaker who has become sensitive about public sentiment ahead of next year’s general election.
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo last week, Mun Mi-ock — vice minister of science and ICT and a key architect of the administration’s nuclear phase-out policy — stepped back and said, “It was a political slogan to emphasize the clarity of the plan.” This is lamentable. Because of the madness caused by the political slogan, ongoing plans to build six nuclear reactors were scrapped overnight. Who will take responsibility for the tens of thousands of people who suffered serious damage from the shelved construction? The policy’s victims turned to street demonstrations during these cold winter days. An online petition drive (www.okatom.org) demanding the resumption of the construction of the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors gathered over 200,000 signatures as of last week. The Blue House has a petition system that says it must offer a response when over 200,000 people demands an answer. Now is the time for the new chief of staff, Noh Young-min, to respond.
At the New Year’s press conference, President Moon said he will make modifications to his policies without changing their keynotes based on undetermined confidence. Following his remarks, the president will have to take sole responsibility if the country’s economy is ruined. Noh is the person who will make modifications. Noh must resume the suspended construction of the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors and stop the serious consequences of the nuclear phase-out policy.
For example, Doosan Heavy Industries made a contract with the government and created components for the nuclear reactors that are worth about 500 billion won ($445.3 million). But they are now stored at an empty lot at its Changwon factory because the Moon administration abruptly scrapped the reactor construction plans. The Blue House, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy or the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power will have to claim responsibility for civil and criminal liabilities and compensate the company for the 500 billion won in damages.
When the upper chain of command is asked to take responsibility, President Moon could be accused of forcing public servants and civilians to do jobs they are not required to do and of abusing his power. He may face civil responsibility. Noh must therefore meet with Doosan Heavy Industries Chairman Park Ji-won and understand the details of the current situation to ensure that the president will not face such responsibilities.
The meeting is timely because President Moon recently said the chief of staff should have fair and transparent contacts with business leaders. Before Noh meets other tycoons, he must meet Park and listen to his position.
Noh served on the National Assembly’s trade and industry committee for six years. Of the Moon loyalists, he is a rare politician who is deeply interested in the prosperity of the company and the country. “I want to receive an evaluation that I have created at least two or three industrial policies in the Moon administration,” Noh reportedly told the president. In order to achieve the goal, it will be his priority to protect the administration from the possible criticism that it has killed the world’s most competitive nuclear energy industry.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 14, Page 30