Monday, April 4, 2011

Rethinking nuclear power in South Korea

The events in northern Japan have led a number of people in the ROK to reconsider whether it is wise to rely so much on nuclear power to meet the country's energy needs:
Following the disasters in Fukushima, the first reaction was for environmentalists to demand that the country’s older reactors be closed down. Then the partisan divide arose, with the opposition criticizing the pro-business, conservative government for over-reliance on nuclear energy, and the government defending itself by saying a growing industrial economy like Korea’s can’t be chintzy about power.

But now the argument is broadening, with people asking more questions about a wider range of issues nuclear and non. How safe are Korea’s reactors compared to those in Japan or other countries? Do Korean consumers and industries use too much power - and is electricity too cheap here? Are investments in nuclear power crowding out alternatives, such as wind and solar energy?

The ultimate fate of the Fukushima Daiichi plant won’t be known for weeks or months. But as in many countries around the world, its travails have started a debate in Korea on nuclear power that is destined to go on for a long time.
With twenty-one nuclear reactors providing 32 percent of the country's electricity, the debate is warranted. Some say South Korea has the world's best nuclear safety record, but until recently Japan was number one or number two as well.

"Wolsong Nuclear Plant is Fukushima #2!"
Frankly, though I think we should never take our eye off constant safety at South Korea's nuclear plants, when it comes to nuclear risks I am more concerned about what's happening in China or even North Korea.

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