Fukushima nuclear accident

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, following a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 which claimed nearly 19,000 lives. It is the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and only the second disaster to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

NewsAsia
ENERGY

South Korea to scale back reliance on nuclear power in wake of Fukushima

Dramatic cut in use targeted in wake of Fukushima crisis and domestic safety scandal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 October, 2013, 5:02am
 

South Korea intends to scale back plans to increase its reliance on nuclear energy amid growing public opposition to atomic power after the Fukushima disaster and a domestic scandal over faked safety documents.

Nuclear energy should account for between 22 per cent and 29 per cent of power generation capacity by 2035, compared with a 41 per cent goal introduced in the previous long-term plan in 2008, South Korea's energy ministry said, citing the findings of a working group of academics and state officials.

Reducing the proportion of energy coming from nuclear power will force South Korea, which imports almost all of its energy, to increase use of other fuel sources to cope with surging demand. The proposal also illustrates the extent to which public opinion has shifted from a technology that has been a mainstay of the nation's energy policy since the first reactor was built in 1978.

"The implementation of energy policy doesn't just involve the government now, it's become an increasingly important and extremely sensitive issue for each and every citizen," Kim Chang- seob, head of the 60-member policy panel, said.

The government last week promised tighter regulation of the nuclear industry after indicting 100 officials on corruption and bribery charges relating to the use of components with faked quality-control certificates.

The probe found 277 faked certificates for parts used in 20 operating reactors as well as 2,010 false documents at eight plants that were offline or under construction, according to the government. "Almost all" of the components have been replaced.

Surveys show nuclear power is becoming increasingly unpopular. Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a March survey said they considered domestic reactors unsafe. That compared with 54 per cent in a poll one year ago.

"We should minimise social conflicts regarding atomic energy's role," the policy panel said in yesterday's statement.

Growing support for South Korea's anti-nuclear lobby has deepened the dilemma facing President Park Geun-hye's government, with power demand expected to surge almost 60 per cent by 2027. In July, Park called for tighter government regulation and monitoring of the nuclear industry.

The energy ministry's long-term plan will be finalised this year pending public feedback and cabinet approval. Nuclear energy accounted for 26.4 percent of power generation capacity as of the end of last year, according to the energy ministry.

The plan maintains the government's target for renewable energy at 11 per cent of supply, according to the statement. The contribution of coal and natural gas would be decided later depending on a plan for greenhouse gas emissions.

South Korea consumes power at almost twice the average of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development relative to the size of its economy, according to the Hyundai Research Institute in Seoul. Demand has grown to "an excessive level" with supply failing to keep pace, Hyundai Research said in a June 19 report.

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