The controversy over the Korean government’s nuclear phase-out policy has been rekindled by ruling Democratic Party lawmaker Song Young-gil who recently called for resumption of the construction of Shin Hanul Nuclear Reactors No. 3 and No. 4.
“Climate change threatens the existence of humankind more than nuclear weapons,” said Song, a fourth-term lawmaker of the ruling party, in an SNS message on Jan. 15. “Switching to renewable energy is our mission for future generations,” Song wrote, emphasizing that the government’s nuclear phase-out policy should go ahead.
Song, however, opined that Korea needed a balanced mid- to long-term energy mix. “While pushing forward a nuclear phase-out, Korea at the same time needs a long-term energy mix policy,” Song said.
Song also mentioned economic factors. "Korea's nuclear power industry boasts the world's best technology and it should be developed into a major export industry," Song noted. "We must not let our nuclear technology ecosystem collapse as we need to be prepared for the rise of the nuclear plant dismantling and nuclear waste disposal markets."
The main point of Song’s argument is that the Korean government needs to discuss the resumption of the construction of Shin Hanul Nuclear Reactors 3 and 4, whose sunk costs amount to 700 billion won. Song said that his proposal is intended to maintain jobs in the nuclear industry while supporting the Moon Jae-in administration’s push for energy conversion to reduce coal-fired power generation, the main culprit behind fine dust and global warming.
Song's remarks set off a firestorm of criticism among members of the ruling Democratic Party. They said, "Going back to nuclear power runs counter to a major trend of the times.”
Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the Democratic Party, said, "Even though there are calls for the resumption of the operation of some nuclear power plants, a review of the government’s nuclear phase-out policy should be more carefully promoted as the policy was adopted through public debates.”
"It is nothing more than a personal opinion of lawmaker Song," said Hong Young-pyo, floor leader of the Democratic Party, in a meeting with reporters. "We may supplement the policy during its implementation process but it is not the right time to change the policy without much consideration."
"We think the nuclear power plant issue has been resolved through discussions by the Public Opinion Collection Committee," said the Presidential Office. "We do not think that it is appropriate to discuss the matter again at the moment."
Despite such dismissive comments from Cheong Wa Dae and the Democratic Party, the controversy over the nuclear phase-out policy is being rekindled. Some members of the Democratic Party and most of the opposition parties have expressed their support for Song's assertion. The opposition parties are even regarding the reignited controversy as a big opportunity to force the government to rescind the policy.
“The Moon Jae-in administration pledged to reduce fine dust emissions by 30 percent or more but the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that people are afraid of breathing. The nuclear phase-out policy has worsened fine dust emissions. It is not for the environment but against the environment,” said Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the Liberty Korea Party in a meeting of the “Safe 365 Days” Special Committee at the National Assembly. "The number of petitions against the nuclear phase-out policy exceeded 300,000 as of Jan. 14. We demand that the government resume public debates on the policy, starting with the resumption of the Shin Hanul Nuclear Reactors 3 and 4 projects."