Audit turns into debate on Moon’s nuke policy

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Audit turns into debate on Moon’s nuke policy

The annual audit of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Monday turned into a battle over the administration’s policy of weaning Korea off nuclear power, with one opposition lawmaker demanding the policy be put to a public vote.

The government wants to increase the share of renewable energy output to 20 percent of the total by 2030, while putting a hold on plans to build nuclear power plants.

Ruling and opposition parties presented conflicting arguments over the impact of the energy policy during the audit.

Major opposition Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Yoon Han-hong blamed the policy for major losses to state-backed energy companies and setbacks to the nuclear industry, such as failing to win a contract to build a nuclear reactor in Britain.

Korea Electric Power (Kepco), the country’s major electric utility, has recorded three consecutive quarters of operating losses.

Lee Jong-bae, from the same party, suggested a public referendum on continuing the policy.

Ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmakers shot back, with Rep. Eoh Kiy-ku explaining that volatility in crude oil prices were to blame for losses to energy companies.

The government audit also focused on a recent series of energy storage system (ESS) fires across the country.

DP lawmaker Lee Hoon expressed concern about battery systems manufactured by LG Chem, saying that LG’s systems accounted for 54 percent, or 14 of the total 26 recently reported fires.

A government investigation could not pinpoint a specific cause for the fires and instead blamed a wide range of reasons such as faulty management.

The lawmaker said the 14 battery systems from LG were all an early batch manufactured in its plant in Nanjing, China, from the second quarter to the end of 2017.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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