According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy of South Korea, President Moon Jae-in’s policy for reducing the number of nuclear and thermal power plants is predicted to result in the shutdown of and discontinuation of construction projects for power stations with a total power generation capacity of 23,919 MW. Those facilities and projects include the construction of the fifth and sixth Kori Nuclear Power Plant units currently showing a rate of progress of 28%, six nuclear power plants previously planned to be built in the future, 10 thermal power stations that have been in operation for more than 30 years and the construction of thermal power stations with a progress of less than 10%.
South Korea will become a country short of energy if his promise is kept. According to the government’s plan, South Korea’s total power generation capacity is scheduled to reach 136,553 MW in 2029. However, it drops to 112,634 MW assuming that the nuclear and thermal power plants disappear as promised. The estimated maximum power demand for that year is 111,929 MW. The amount of generated power is likely to fall short of the required amount given a minimum power reserve of 15% required for facility repair and maintenance.
The government is planning to increase the ratio of power generation based on new and renewable energy sources to at least 20% in this regard, but it is still insufficient. At present, this type of power generation accounts for approximately 7% of the total in South Korea, and the capacity of this type of power generation facilities is estimated to increase by 14,550 MW until 2029 if the ratio reaches 20% that year as planned. Although the facility capacity is likely to exceed the maximum power demand, it is still far from enough to satisfy a reserve ratio of 22%.
Another potential problem is that power demand may soar due to the government’s policy for encouraging the use of electric vehicles (EVs) for particulate matter reduction. According to the Korea Energy Economics Institute, EVs in South Korea are estimated to require up to 900 MW of electricity in 2020 and the amount jumps to 3,680 MW assuming that the number of EVs in the country increases to one million until 2029 and 12,000 more units of quick chargers are installed until then. This amount of 3,680 MW exceeds the amount of electricity that can be supplied by two of the atomic power stations the government is planning to give up on.
Yet another problem is that his policy is likely to lead to a rise in the price of electricity. Alternative energy sources are characterized by producing electricity in an intermittent manner and, as such, it is not easy to meet the power demand with those sources in peak hours. It is for this same reason that facilities for power generation using liquefied natural gas (LNG) are used in large-scale wind farms and solar power generation facilities. Replacement of nuclear and thermal power plants with LNG, which has a high unit generation cost, is highly likely to cause the price of electricity to rise.
“No country in the world has given up on both nuclear and thermal power plants at the same time while increasing the use of alternative energy sources,” professor Jung Bum-jin at the Department of Nuclear Engineering of Kyung Hee University pointed out, adding, “Britain adopted nuclear power based on a national consensus after giving up on coal and Germany had to resort to lignite-based power generation after ditching atomic power, which implies the South Korean government needs to be very prudent in determining which one it will drop.”