Petition shows strong backlash over Moon's anti-nuclear policyOver 1 million people signed a petition opposing President Moon Jae-in's anti-nuclear policy as of Monday morning.
A total of 1,002,378 people signed an ongoing petition formed by the National Signature Movement Headquarters in 2018 to oppose the current administration’s plan for a national nuclear phase-out, one of the staple pledges of the Moon administration.
The headquarters is comprised of members from the main opposition People Power Party and civic groups that are against the nuclear phase-out.
The petition is more specifically aimed at resuming construction of two nuclear power plants — Shin Hanul Units 3 and 4.
Shin Hanul Units 3 and 4 were scheduled to be completed in 2022 and 2023, according to a plan by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power that was finalized in 2015.
However, the construction was suspended when the government scrapped all plans for new nuclear power plants in 2017.
A total of 700 billion won ($591 million) used toward the plant's construction went to waste.
Moreover, the headquarters worked with nuclear experts and concluded that the Moon administration’s nuclear phase-out policy is the main reason behind the recent rise in electricity rates.
Starting this month, electricity bills will increase by 3 won per kilowatt hour, according to Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco).
This month’s rate hike marks the first time since November 2013 that electricity bills have been raised in Korea.
"The proportion of nuclear power in the national energy mix has fallen from more than 30 percent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2017," said Jeong Yong-hun, a professor of nuclear and quantum engineering at KAIST.
"As the cheapest source of energy has been significantly reduced in the nation’s energy mix, it is only natural that the price of electricity rose,” Jeong said.
In order to raise awareness of the costs of the current anti-nuclear power policies, the National Signature Movement against a nuclear phase-out carries out various activities such as collecting signatures for the petition, holding one-man protests and sending letters to the Blue House.
"We strive to inform people about the grave consequences of the current administration’s decision to scale back on nuclear energy," said Jo Jae-wan, participant of the National Signature Movement and chairman of the Green Atomic Energy Student Association.
Moon has been actively denouncing nuclear power since his presidential campaign in 2017.
But the backlash from civic groups and nuclear power experts, rate hikes and unstable power forced the administration to backpedal from their initial declaration.
In July, the government restarted operations at its Shin Kori Unit 4 and granted an operating permit to Shin Hanul Unit 1.
“The fact that the number of signers exceeds 1 million is evidence that many people recognize the importance of nuclear power,” said the National Signature Movement Headquarters.
"Also, 1 million is more than 2 percent of the total 44 million voters in Korea, so the issue of the nuclear power phase-out will inevitably emerge as a major factor determining Moon’s approval ratings during his final year in office as well as a crucial issue in the upcoming presidential election.”
BY LEE JIAN, KIM BANG-HYUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]