Nuclear power is green, environment minister nominee says
Her view is in line with President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's plan to categorize nuclear power as relatively safe for the environment, reversing the policy of the previous government.
Nuclear energy "is categorized as a green resource regarding greenhouse gas emissions," she told the National Assembly on Monday.
The nominee added that a change in the categorization of nuclear energy will be a growth opportunity.
She stressed that the pledge to cut carbon emissions by 2030 to 60 percent of 2018 levels will be a challenge, but that the promise made to the international community must be followed.
"The execution plan has to be wise," Han noted.
When asked whether the government should be more focused on increasing renewable energy production than on nuclear energy, the nominee said although she agrees that that should be the goal in the long run, the goal should also be an appropriate mix of renewable energy and nuclear energy.
Yoon's transition team said last week it will be including nuclear power in the nation's "green taxonomy," which is a list of economic activities considered environmentally sustainable.
Moon's government included LNG but not nuclear on the list. The EU includes nuclear.
The environment minister nominee said she will come up with a practical plan that could help the country meet carbon emissions reduction targets by 2030.
"We don't have much time left until 2030," Han said. "But most of the technologies needed are existing and not new."
Despite the Moon Jae-in administration's promise to phase out nuclear power and the shuttering of two nuclear reactors since 2017, demand for nuclear power remains high after the rise in the price of oil.
Some countries have gone to coal, the cheapest energy resource.
In Korea, city gas prices have been increased two months in a row, while electricity prices may have to be increased as well.
Korea Electric Power Corp. is projected to report an operating loss of 5.3 trillion won ($4.2 billion) in the first quarter. That's near the 5.9 trillion won loss for the whole 2021, which was an all-time record.
During Monday's hearing, Han emphasized her experience in heading a team with participants from 15 research institutions in 2008 to come up with a national master plan to combat climate change.
Han, an environmental researcher, served as the Blue House secretary for the environment during the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Before being appointed as environment minister, she was an honorary researcher fellow at the Korea Environment Institute.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [email@example.com]