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Harnessing Nuclear Energy for a Better Future
KNEF Chairperson thinks that Korea can and must turn nuclear energy into a major fuel for its economic growth
Harnessing Nuclear Energy for a Better Future
  • By matthew
  • January 15, 2010, 14:45
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BusinessKorea held an interview with Lee Jae-hwan, Chairperson of the Korea Nuclear Energy Foundation (KNEF) to let readers better understand the roles and missions of KNEF.

Q: The successful bidding for the construction of nuclear power plants in the UAE has increased national interest in nuclear power generation. As a result, the role of the Korea Nuclear Energy Foundation (KNEF) is likely to become even greater. Please introduce KNEF.

A: KNEF was established in March 1992. It has played an active role in forming a national consensus on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. These activities include education, knowledge dissemination, and research. KNEF has promoted ‘Cooperation for Current Tasks in the Nuclear Energy Industry’ to support low-carbon green growth.

Q: The recently increase in global interest in nuclear power has coined the term “Nuclear Power Renaissance.” What is the background of this?

A: Nuclear power is a clean energy that does not produce carbon dioxide, the main culprit of global warming. Its unit cost for power generation is one fiftieth of that of oil, making it the most economical energy source currently available.

Q: What is the economic contribution to Korea’s overall industry?

A: This Nuclear Power Renaissance enables us to forecast that the world’s commercial nuclear power market will be worth 1,200 trillion won by 2030. If the country secures 10% of the market, it will become a representative export item for Korea along with semiconductors, shipbuilding, and automobiles.

If we export four nuclear power plants, the effect will be equal to exporting one million midsize automobiles or 180 large oil tankers each with a capacity of 300,000 tons. Therefore, the market is seen by many as a golden goose. In addition, we believe that the cost competitiveness of Korea’s nuclear power industry has outperformed other advanced countries based on our 30-year-long efforts.

Q: Please tell us about the status of Korea’s nuclear power industry.

A: Currently, there are 20 nuclear power plants in Korea, located in Gori, Uljin, Wolseong, and Youngkwang. Six plants are currently under construction with an additional six plants planned to be constructed by 2022. Korea is the world’s sixth nuclear energy power based on its 95% technological independence. Nuclear power now accounts for 40% of the total energy produced in Korea, meaning that one of every two electric light bulbs used in households and factories run on nuclear power.

Since 1982, consumer prices increased by 221%. However, the cost of electricity has increased by only 10%. This is owed to nuclear power generation.

Q: The COP15 conference in Copenhagen for the Framework Convention on Climate Change was held on December 7, 2009. It showed a significant division of interest between advanced countries and developing countries. How do climate change and nuclear power relate to each other?

A: To generate 1kWh power, coal, oil, and natural gas will emit 991g, 782g, and 549g of carbon dioxide, respectively. Nuclear power generates no carbon dioxide in the power generation process. Over the entire process, emissions total 10g. The energy created by the nuclear fission of 1g of Uranium amounts to that produced by the burning of three tons of coal or nine drums of oil.

Q: There are concerns about safety. The Chernobyl nightmare seems to persist. Is nuclear power generation in Korea safe?

A: The Capacity Factor recorded 93.4% last year, the highest in history. The world’s average is 79.4%, 14% lower than Korea’s. We believe that this performance can relieve customers in terms of safety.

Q: What are KNEF’s core projects for Nuclear Power Renaissance?

A: KNEF focuses on increasing the next generation’s understanding of nuclear power. KNEF held the Nuclear Power Generation Olympiad for elementary school kids in December, 2009, while our awareness program has been used by 11 national education offices. The Seoul Office of Education designated KNEF as a training center for teachers. 610 experts, including myself, visited schools to provide one-day training to 100,761 students in 2009.