South Korea to 'reasonably utilise' nuclear energy

09 May 2022

Incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol made nuclear power one of his campaign pledges and, the Yonhap News Agency reports, Industry Minister nominee Lee Chang-yang told his confirmation hearing nuclear power was a way to boost energy security and hit its carbon-zero goals.

Shin Hanul units 1 and 2 (Image: KHNP)

The new president is due to be sworn into office on Tuesday. He has vowed to reverse out-going President Moon Jae-in's policy of phasing out nuclear power, a policy which was brought in after he assumed office in 2017, and followed the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.

There has been speculation the new government will restart construction on Shin-Hanul units 3 and 4, continue to operate current nuclear reactors for longer and keep the country’s energy share of nuclear at about 30%.

"I will seek measures to reasonably utilise nuclear energy, which is a major means of energy security and carbon neutrality, and to boost the competitiveness of the sector to actively support its exports," Lee said in his opening remarks at the hearing, reported Yonhap News Agency.

There was also a presidential campaign pledge to push for more exports. Last month Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) submitted to Poland what the country called a "technical and price offer" for the construction of six APR-1400 reactors.

South Korea currently has 24 reactors, providing about one-third of South Korea’s electricity and nuclear energy had long been a strategic priority for the country until the phase-out policy was introduced. It remains one of the world’s most prominent nuclear energy countries with widespread export of its technology - it is currently involved in the building of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant.

There also remains public support for nuclear power in the country, according to a September 2021 poll of 1000 adults by EmBrain Public on behalf of the Korean Nuclear Society. It suggested that 72.1% of respondents supported the use of nuclear power, while 24.3% opposed it.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News