Where’s the consensus?

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Where’s the consensus?

Rep. Song Young-gil, a four-term lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, proposed to resume construction of the Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors in Uljin, North Gyeongsang, which were suspended as part of the Moon Jae-in administration’s relentless push for a nuclear phase-out — a campaign promise he made in 2017. Song made the remarks at a New Year’s meeting last Friday among nuclear scientists, engineers and others involved in the industry.

“It is hard to change our energy supply system from coal- and nuclear-based power generation to renewable resources-based generation overnight,” Song said. “Therefore, we need a soft-landing to the transition. The government can consider the idea of resuming the suspended construction of the two nuclear plants in return for stopping the operation of aged coal power plants and nuclear reactors.”
Song’s proposal was immediately met with resistance. Rep. Woo Won-shik, former floor leader of the ruling party, raised an objection on Facebook. “It is regrettable that Rep. Song made such remarks. As the government’s energy-shift plan will be implemented over a period of 60 years through 2083, that’s not a radical change.”

His argument is short-sighted. The Moon administration plans to stop the operation of 10 nuclear reactors within 10 years. That accounts for nearly half of the 23 reactors across the country. The government also cancelled construction of six new reactors, which means that 16 reactors will disappear during the first 10 years of the 60-year timespan. It is not a slow process.

The Moon administration’s drastic nuclear phase-out is already wreaking havoc on the economy. The local government of Uljin had to cut its annual budget by a whopping 23 percent due to a sharp reduction of government subsidies for the construction of the two plants. Apartment construction also stopped in the region and shops closed down. There are rumors that our utility fees will rise sharply sooner or later.

Around the world, the demand for nuclear reactors is increasing, even in Japan, which decided to reactivate nuclear power plants even after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Bill Gates defined nuclear reactors as the best solution to fight climate change.

But our government is going in the opposite direction. It took more than 20 years of consensus building for Germany to take the path of nuclear phase-out — it took five referendums for Switzerland to choose that path. Only Korea adheres to a nuclear phase-out without a public consensus. What is the government afraid of?

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 15, Page 30
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