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Korea's Nuclear Phase-out Policy Under Growing Pressure
An Ill-advised Policy Becoming Increasingly Untenable
Korea's Nuclear Phase-out Policy Under Growing Pressure
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • January 24, 2019, 10:47
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Shin-hanul Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4

Opposition parties and civic organizations opposed to the South Korean government’s nuclear phase-out policy are putting pressure on it by collecting signatures from more than 330,000 people.

The ill-advised policy is increasingly becoming untenable as it will lead to a lack of new work for more than 600 companies including nuclear power plant component manufacturers and designers. Then, the local nuclear power generation market, approximately 6 trillion won in size, may disappear within years. The number of undergraduate and graduate students majoring in nuclear engineering is plummeting and up to 10,000 persons in the industry may lose their jobs within 10 years.

At present, 697 companies in the industry are doing business based on contracts with KEPCO E&C and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. The Korea Energy Economics Institute recently forecast that the number may fall to less than 300 if the policy remains unchanged. In a recent survey, every local power plant designer answered that it would not maintain the scale of its business in that case.

The government is claiming that the industrial collapse can be blocked to some extent by overseas nuclear power plant construction projects. It is making a lot of efforts to that end as the number of workers in the industry is estimated to fall from 38,800 to 27,000 until 2030 without overseas construction.

Those in the industry, meanwhile, are claiming that overseas nuclear power plant construction and the South Korean nuclear power plant component market are not so closely related to each other. “Although turbines are supplied by a nuclear power plant exporter, client countries encourage the use of domestically available non-turbine components in accordance with their atomic energy agreements,” an analyst said, adding, “Besides, no client will opt to work with South Korean component suppliers in light of the Korean government’s push for a nuclear phase-out.”

Under the circumstances, those opposed to the policy and calling for a resumption of the construction of Shin-hanul Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4 sent the 330,000 online and offline signatures to the government on Jan. 21.

The two units as a part of the Shin-hanul Project are 1,400 MW APR1400s, requiring a total project cost of 8.26 trillion won. Approximately 700 billion won were executed until 2017, when the government canceled every nuclear power plant construction project.