South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s promise to shut down nuclear power plants is taking shape as Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) stopped designing the third and fourth units of the Hanwool Nuclear Power Plant and purchasing land for the first and second units of the Cheonji Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, the political community is calling for the government to stop the construction of the fifth and sixth units of the Kori Nuclear Power Plant with 28% of the construction already completed and no less than 1.5 trillion won already invested in the construction project.
The land purchase came to a halt on May 28 at a completion rate of 18%. Six days earlier, KEPCO E&C stopped the entrusted design work for the third and fourth units scheduled to be completed in December 2022 and December 2023, respectively.
The construction of the Kori Nuclear Power Plant units is likely to be stopped soon as well in that the first unit of Kori, which is the first nuclear power plant in South Korea, is slated to be permanently shut down next month and the Seoul Administrative Court recently ruled that the first unit of Wolsung cannot be given an additional service life of 10 years as claimed by the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission.
The new government’s plan is not without problems though. “We have no alternative at all to the old coal-fired power plants and nuclear power stations that are being shut down one after another,” said professor Seo Kyun-ryul at the Department of Nuclear Engineering of Seoul National University, adding, “Smooth replacement of the power plants with new and renewable energy sources will take time while causing a rise in the price of electricity.”
Lawsuits to follow the discontinuation of projects can pose problems, too. As mentioned above, KHNP already invested 1.5 trillion won in the fifth and sixth Kori units until the end of last month and the total amount subject to litigation can reach five trillion won or so in view of the contracts already signed for the construction.
Under the circumstances, experts are pointing out that the government needs to take a lesson from Germany, which has jeopardized its own energy security since its nuclear-free declaration for political purposes. After the Fukushima disaster, Germany declared that it would reduce the number of its nuclear power stations to zero by 2022. After the declaration, however, it had to increase the number of brown coal power plants due to blackouts and so on in spite of an increase in the use of alternative energy sources. More recently, the country is buying power from neighboring countries as the brown coal power plants are causing CO2 emission problems.