Contradictory policy

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Contradictory policy

The author is the head of the science and future team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Oxymoron was the word that came to mind when I heard the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission’s decision to permanently shut down the Wolseong 1 Reactor. I want to sum up the Moon Jae-in administration’s energy policy in a few words: nuclear phaseout, hydrogen economy and new renewable energy. They seem to be consistent. But if you look at the details, I cannot help but say they are totally contradictory.

On Dec. 13, Europe made a decision the Korean government may want to consider. The 27 EU members reached an agreement on the climate change to attain “carbon neutrality” by 2050 at the EU summit. Carbon neutrality means generating zero net emissions by absorbing as much carbon dioxide as is produced.

Europe made the commitment because last summer was so shocking. An estimated 11 billion tons of ice melted in Greenland, and Europe had the hottest summer in history.

How does Europe plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? It is about selecting energy source. The summit agreement states that members can choose their energy mix, and appropriate technology is respected. As countries like France stick with nuclear energy, they can attain the carbon zero goal in their own way. European countries recognize that realistic global warming concerns are more serious than the potential danger of nuclear power plants.

How about Korea? According to the Meteorological Administration, the Korean Peninsula’s rate of warming is twice the world average. Korea could have a summer more severe than Europe’s soon. The current administration is more focused on the nuclear phaseout than on the carbon phaseout.

The reactor, which has three years left on its lifespan, has been permanently closed. But the life of the Boryeong 3 coal thermal power plant has been extended through a performance improvement project. On top of that, a new coal power plant is under construction. Despite the government’s slogan of achieving a hydrogen economy, research and development for the very high temperature gas-cooled reactor to make clean hydrogen is neglected as it relates to nuclear energy. The government plans to get hydrogen by refining liquefied natural gas that cannot but emit carbon dioxide. What should we do?

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 29
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