The Repercussions of South Korea’s Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy A long-term policy is running into increasing domestic opposition, The Diplomat, By Se Young Jang, 8 Oct 15 Se Young Jang is an associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Studies, Harvard Kennedy School, and a non-resident Kelly fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS.
In a local referendum held in October 2014, an overwhelming majority of the residents in Samcheok, a small coastal city in Gangwon province, rejected the South Korean government’s plan to build a nuclear power plant in the city. Since Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima and South Korea’s 2013 scandals over fake safety certificates for nuclear equipment, South Koreans have begun to take nuclear safety issues more seriously, which in turn has prompted a growing anti-nuclear power sentiment. A series of scandals and accidents in South Korea’s nuclear power plants have focused public attention on the effects of radioactive materials on the health of the residents who live near the country’s four nuclear power plants. Last year, a South Korean courtruled that the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., a state-run nuclear power plant operator, was responsible for the thyroid cancer suffered by a plaintiff, who has lived 7.7 km away from the Kori nuclear power plant over the past 20 years. Since then, more than 500 thyroid cancer patients living close to the nuclear power plants in South Korea have been preparing a joint legal action against the company.
Notwithstanding the anti-nuclear sentiment, nuclear energy as a share of total electricity generated increased to about 30 percent in 2014, and the South Korean government is currently constructing four new nuclear reactors with eight more being planned. Standing firm on its nuclear power plant projects, the South Korean government regarded the Samcheok referendum as not legally binding, and this position remains unchanged. Under the Second Basic National Energy Plan for 2015-2035, South Korea appear to have few options but to stick to its original plan of building more nuclear power plants, as the 2015-2035 energy plan was based on the assumption that it could not avoid raising its dependence on nuclear power.
Critics say that the government overestimated future electricity demand and underpriced electricity. According to the Sixth Basic Supply-Demand Plan for Electricity (2013-2027), South Korea will use more electricity per capita than the United States in 2024. The high population density in South Korea could translate into lower demand for electricity per capita. Moreover, estimates of electricity demand are based on cheap prices for electricity; the government calculated that the rate of increase in electricity prices in the coming years would be one third of the inflation rate. Some newspapers in South Korea report concerns about rising electricity bills as a result of a decreasing reliance on nuclear power. Still, it is interesting to note that 65.6 percent of respondents in a 2013 poll were willing to pay a higher electricity bill if it meant fewer nuclear power plants……….
Today, South Korea no longer seeks its own nuclear weapons, but Park Geun-hye still sees boosting nuclear energy industry as a great opportunity for the South Korean economy. Now a nuclear exporter, South Korea has concluded agreements with Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to construct one research reactor and four commercial reactors. …….
Korea’s success in the nuclear export market and geopolitical necessities notwithstanding, the current domestic situation is hardly favorable to the South Korean government. The 2013 scandal over hundreds of faulty components used in reactors is still unfolding. A parliamentary audit last year revealed that the temporary suspension of the operations of nuclear power plants after the scandal caused the loss of 10 trillion won (about $9.5 billion), and that some officials fired from the KEPCO E&C (Korea Electric Power Corporation Engineering and Construction) over the scandals were rehired. Worse, the result of the referendum in Samcheok is probably only the beginning of a series of hurdles which the South Korean government will have to overcome. More than half of the respondents in a recent poll conducted in Yeongdeok, in North Gyeongsang Province, which was also designated as a nuclear power plant site by the government in 2012 along with Samcheok, opposed the central government’s construction plan.
The consent of local residents will be even more important in the near future as South Korea faces a crisis over the storage of nuclear spent fuel. South Korea has nearly 9,000 tons of spent fuel stacked in temporary storage pools with about 750 tons added to the pools every year. They could reach maximum capacity by 2021. The government has been deliberating over several ways of storing spent fuel, including pyroprocessing and a medium-term solution using dry casks; but no matter what method South Korea chooses, the government will need to be able to persuade people living next to the facility, no easy task as Samcheok has demonstrated……….http://thediplomat.com/2015/10/the-repercussions-of-south-koreas-pro-nuclear-energy-policy/
Japan’s dispute with South Korea over its import restrictions on Japanese seafood imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is now going to the World Trade Organization.
Following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, South Korea banned imports of some marine products caught in waters off Fukushima and seven other prefectures, mainly areas along the Pacific coast between Aomori and Chiba prefectures. Then in autumn 2013, Seoul expanded the scope of the ban to include all marine products from these prefectures.
The Japanese government responded to the move by criticizing the measure for “lacking a scientific basis.”
Tokyo has been demanding that the measure be withdrawn while cooperating with Seoul’s investigations. But the two countries have failed to resolve their disagreements, and Japan has asked the WTO to set up a dispute-settlement panel comprising experts from third countries to rule over South Korea’s import ban.
More than a dozen countries and areas have barred imports of all or part of Japanese-made foods, but the government has singled out South Korea because the country has expanded its restrictions.
The WTO tends to be regarded as dysfunctional because of the lack of progress in the global trade-liberalizing talks under its auspices. But the world trade watchdog has at least been performing its dispute-settling functions.
Japan has been making active use of the WTO’s ability to settle trade disputes.
Over the past several years, Tokyo has filed complaints with the WTO over China’s restrictions on exports of rare earth minerals and Ukraine’s emergency restrictions on automobile imports, for instance. These actions have produced certain positive results for Japan.
Japan’s diplomatic relations with South Korea remain strained over some long-standing territorial and history-related rows. But both countries should not allow these problems to affect the ways they deal with economic issues like trade disputes.
Tokyo and Seoul need to continue talks to seek an early solution to the dispute even while the WTO’s panel is hearing the case.
Four-and-a-half years after the accident, coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture, where the disaster-stricken nuclear power plant is located, are still subject to restrictions on shipments of certain kinds of fish. Even for the fishes not covered, fishermen in these areas are allowed to catch and sell them only on a “trial basis.”
A system has been established to ensure that farm, forestry and fishery products made in areas directly affected by the disaster as well as surrounding regions are shipped only after they have passed the safety standards in radiation tests. But consumers have shown a tendency to avoid all food products from these areas.
In cases of fishery products, only small-scale fishing operations and limited sales of products have been conducted to gauge the reactions from consumers.
The South Korean government says it has expanded the import curbs in response to leaks of radiation-contaminated water from the Fukushima plant.
With the South Korean public deeply worried about food contaminated with radioactive materials, the step was aimed at preventing confusion among consumers in the country, according to Seoul.
The scope of the import restrictions and the means involved may be open to dispute. It should be noted, however, that in both South Korea and Japan, food safety from a scientific viewpoint doesn’t necessarily reassure consumers.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has been plagued by leaks of polluted water. Local fishermen have lodged protests every time such an incident occurs.
It must not be forgotten that every leak of contaminated water makes consumers even more unwilling to put their faith in the safety of products from the areas.
The only way to restore the public’s trust in the safety of food is to ensure there will be no more leaks of contaminated water nor any exacerbation of the nuclear accident. The food trade dispute with South Korea should serve as a reminder of the absolute need to achieve these most basic nuclear safety goals.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
At all of the sites visited, the author found local opinion leaders making clear their concerns about the safety of spent fuel management in addition to their concerns about the overall safety of nuclear power plant operations
As they grapple with safety concerns regarding nearby nuclear facilities, local residents typically lack unbiased information on the issues involved
Plans call for a continued expansion in South Korea’s fleet of nuclear reactors, but at the same time, facilities for the temporary storage of spent fuel, mostly in at-reactor pools, continue to fill up. Negotiations between the nuclear industry and central government agencies on one side, and local host communities on the other, for siting of interim spent fuel storage facilities, let alone permanent waste disposal facilities, have been largely ineffective to date, due in large part to a combination of the tactics used by authorities in approaching local communities, and a lack of unbiased information about nuclear facilities on the part of local stakeholders. In the last few years, a new effort to engage host communities has been undertaken, and shows some promise, though much work remains before agreements on facility siting can be reached.
Nuclear Spent Fuel is Accumulating at Reactor Sites in South Korea
As of 2015 about 760 metric tons of spent fuel is discharged annually from 23 reactors in South Korea. About half of this total comes from four CANDU heavy water reactors (HWRs) and the other half from 19 pressurized light-water reactors (PWRs). As of the end of 2013, 6,541 tHM (tonnes heavy metal) in spent PWR fuel and 7,258 tHM in spent HWR fuel were stored in the spent fuel storage facilities at four different nuclear power plants clustered into four coastal sites: Hanul (Ulchin), Wolsong and Kori along the East coast and Hanbit (Yonggwang) on the West coast. Continue reading
TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The World Trade Organization has put off a decision on whether to set up a dispute settlement panel on South Korea’s import ban on Japanese fishery products, the Fisheries Agency said Monday.
At a meeting Monday, the WTO stopped short of making a decision as South Korea did not agree to the establishment of the panel. But the WTO is expected to approve the setting up of the panel as requested by Japan at its next meeting, on Sept. 28.
South Korea introduced the ban on some fishery products from eight prefectures, including Fukushima, in the wake of the reactor meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Source: Japan News
On 21 May 2015, the Japanese government referred measures taken by the Korean government to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Since Sept. 6 2013, the Korean government has restricted the import of Japanese fisheries products from eight prefectures including Fukushima, where a nuclear-power-plant disaster occurred in 2011.
According to the Korean government, import restrictions are indispensable for food safety reasons, while the Japanese government argues that its products are safe for humans to consume.
The Agreement of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) provides that members have the right to take SPS measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health.
However, members must ensure that any SPS measure is applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, and is not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence, based on a risk assessment under the SPS Agreement (Art. 2).
Since the risk assessment under the SPS Agreement is “the evaluation of the potential for adverse effects on human or animal health arising from the presence of additives, contaminants, toxins or disease-causing organisms in food, beverages or feedstuffs,” (Annex A, para.4 emphasis added) risk assessments based on the minority scientific opinion can be used as justification for measures taken by South Korea, as long as there is any possibility of adverse effects on human health.
Most man-made radionuclides emitted from atomic energy incidents were classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2001.
The international standard recommended by the CODEX Alimentarius Commission is 1,000Bk/kg for cesium (Cs) 134/137, reflecting the maximum acceptable level for human health.
The Commission, however, proposed that radionuclides in foods should be maintained to a level that is “as low as reasonably achievable.”
According to the SPS Agreement, members may maintain SPS measures resulting in a higher level of protection than the relevant international standards, if there is a scientific justification, or a member determines to be appropriate in accordance with Article 5 (Art.3.3).
Regarding Cs 134/137 in foods, many members including South Korea (100Bq/kg), the European Union (100Bq/kg), Taiwan (370Bq/kg), China (90~800Bq/kg) and Japan (10~100Bq/kg) have, therefore, maintained higher levels of protection than recommended by CODEX.
Under Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, South Korea can take provisional measures to restrict the importation of the Japanese products, if relevant scientific evidence is insufficient.
Given the on-going nature and unprecedented magnitude of Fukushima disaster, it is doubtful whether Japan has provided South Korea with sufficient information regarding the actual conditions of radioactive contamination after the disaster and whether a complete risk assessment estimating the adverse effects of radionuclides on human health will be currently possible.
Since South Korea and Japan failed to settle the trade dispute through consultation, under the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, the dispute is due to be referred to the Panel.
During the Panel process, Japan must prove that there have been no more additional emissions of man-made radionuclides into the environment after the disaster, and provide the Panel with sufficient scientific evidence supporting the food safety of Japanese marine products.
Source: The Korea Times
Aug 20 Japan on Thursday asked the World Trade Organization to set up a panel to rule on South Korea’s import bans and testing requirements for Japanese food after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, since the restrictions show no signs of being eased.
Japan launched a trade complaint at the WTO in May, saying the South Korean measures violated a WTO agreement and that Seoul had failed to justify the measures as required.
“We held two days of bilateral discussions on this on June 24 and 25, but there was no expression from the Korean side of when the restrictions might be lifted,” Japan’s Agriculture Ministry said on its website.
“Since more than 60 days have passed since the complaint was lodged, and there is no sign of when the restrictions might be repealed, we have asked today, in accordance with WTO rules, for the establishment of a panel.”
South Korea in May expressed regret at Japan’s move and said then that the ban on some Japanese seafood was necessary and reflected safety concerns.
Japan countered by saying levels were safe and that a number of other nations, including the United States and Australia, had lifted or eased Fukushima-related restrictions.
The average annual value of South Korean imports of Japanese fish and seafood was $96 million in 2012-2014, less than half the average of $213 million in 2006-2010, according to data from the International Trade Centre in Geneva.
GYEONGJU, South Korea–For three decades after a nuclear power plant near her home became operational, Hwang Bun-hui believed that nuclear power was no different from other energy sources in terms of safety and health effects.
But after the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfurled in Japan in March 2011, she came to harbor a growing concern over the effects that nuclear power generation has on human health as she had long suffered from a feeling of listlessness.
After a medical checkup, Hwang, 67, a resident of Gyeongju, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have immediate surgery to remove the tumor. Several other people from her village, which is the closest human settlement to the Wolseong nuclear power plant, were also diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Hwang is among an increasing number of South Koreans who live near the country’s four nuclear power plants and are joining civil suits against the operator of the plants, demanding compensation for cancer and other adverse health effects.
The citizen’s legal actions were prompted by a landmark ruling by a district court last October, which ordered Korea Electric Power Corp., the government-owned operator of the nuclear plants, to pay 15 million won (1.68 million yen, or $13,500) in damages to a thyroid cancer patient.
The number of plaintiffs seeking compensation from KEPCO for health damages incurred by radioactive emissions from the plants has now swelled to more than 2,500.
Hwang joined the lawsuit late last year, encouraged by the landmark ruling by the Busan District Court.
In demanding compensation from KEPCO, she argues that radioactive emissions from the Wolseong nuclear power plant in Gyeongju, with its five reactors, have caused her thyroid cancer.
Hwang’s residence is located just 915 meters from the nuclear plant. The country’s nuclear watchdog authorized the extension of the operational life of the plant’s No. 1 reactor beyond 30 years in February.
While seeking damages through a civil trial, Hwang has also joined a local residents’ protest to demand the immediate decommissioning of aging reactors at the plant.
After she read the headlines of the landmark ruling in favor of the resident of Busan, Hwang realized that, “I’m equally a victim of a nuclear power plant.”
The 48-year-old plaintiff lived at a site located 7.7 kilometers from the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan for about two decades, and had her thyroid cancer surgically removed three years ago.
Citing a judicial precedent set by the Supreme Court in a pollution case, the Busan District Court held KEPCO responsible to pay damages unless it could prove that a nuclear power plant is safe for local residents.
The ruling brought similar civil actions among residents who live near four nuclear power plants in South Korea.
Between December and April, 545 residents living near the nuclear plants, who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, joined lawsuits. Most of the plaintiffs live in areas within a 10-km radius from a nuclear power plant.
The total number of plaintiffs, including the family members of cancer patients, has already exceeded 2,500.
Lawyer Kim Yeong-hui, who has encouraged residents living near nuclear plants to join the litigation, said that epidemiological surveys in South Korea have shown that residents living 5 to 30 km from nuclear power plants have 1.8 times a higher incidence of thyroid cancer than people from other areas.
“The district court made the decision based on the survey results, and Japan should also conduct surveys covering residents living near all domestic reactors (to determine the health effect of nuclear energy),” the lawyer said.
At a gathering of anti-nuclear citizens in Osaka in January, Lee Jin-seop, the husband of the plaintiff who won the lawsuit at the Busan court, said that citizens from the two countries and elsewhere need to join hands in legal efforts against nuclear power.
“Even after the Fukushima disaster, South Korea has increased its number of nuclear reactors, while Japan is pushing for the restart of idled reactors,” said Lee, 51. “We need to expand the network of citizens seeking legal justice to protect our safety and health.”
Source: Asahi Shimbun
Bilateral talks on Korea’s ban on fisheries imports from Japan following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster have collapsed, and the matter will now go before a dispute panel at the World Trade Organization.
Seoul banned the import of 50 fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture after the disaster, and the ban was expanded to cover all fishery products from Fukushima and seven adjacent prefectures in September 2013 following reports that massive amounts of radioactive materials and contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant were being dumped in the sea.
Tokyo claims Korea’s import ban has no scientific basis and demanded that Seoul lift it as soon as possible.
A government official here said, “We said the import ban was in line with WTO regulations and asked Tokyo to explain its nuclear risk and the state of nuclear reactors.”
Tokyo initially requested bilateral consultations with Seoul under a WTO dispute settlement framework.
Source : Chosun
SEJONG, June 26 (Yonhap) — Talks between South Korea and Japan over Seoul’s ban on fishery imports from the neighboring country ended without any progress as they stuck to their guns, the government here said Friday.
Seoul imposed an import ban on 50 fishery products from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture shortly after the major earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear reactor there to melt down in March 2011.
The ban was expanded to cover all fishery products from Fukushima and seven adjacent prefectures in September 2013 following reports that massive amounts of radioactive materials and contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant were being dumped in waters surrounding Japan.
“The government held bilateral consultations with Japan on June 24-25 at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva over our country’s import restrictions on Japanese fishery products, but the talks ended after the countries confirmed their differences,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a press release.
Japan argued South Korea’s import ban had no scientific justification, demanding Seoul remove all its import restrictions at the earliest date possible.
South Korea maintained its measures were still necessary to ensure the safety of its people and that they were in line with the WTO’s sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
This week’s talks came after Tokyo requested bilateral consultations with Seoul under a dispute settlement framework of the WTO.
Japan could ask the WTO to set up a dispute settlement panel if the countries fail to reach a deal within 60 days following Japan’s request for bilateral consultations.
Seoul’s trade ministry said it was not clear whether Tokyo will ask for additional consultations, but that it will be fully prepared to deal with any legal processes.
“Japan has expressed its position that it will decide its next step after reviewing the outcome of this week’s bilateral consultations,” the ministry said.
“The government will begin preparing for WTO’s dispute settlement process as Japan is expected to ask for the establishment of a dispute settlement panel.”
Source : Yonhap News
Geneva – Japan and South Korea held talks on Seoul’s import ban on Japanese fishery products in Geneva Wednesday under dispute settlement procedures of the World Trade Organization but failed to iron out their differences.
The two sides, however, agreed to continue the talks on Thursday.
The talks were arranged after Japan filed a complaint with the WTO on May 21 over the import ban.
After the meltdown of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, South Korea banned imports of some marine products from eight prefectures including Fukushima. In September 2013, the country expanded the ban to cover all seafood from the eight prefectures.
Japan took the matter to the world trade watchdog because South Korea did not agree to the Japanese argument that the ban lacked scientific evidence.
If the two sides remain at odds in Thursday’s talks and cannot reach an agreement by the July 20 deadline for the bilateral consultations, Japan will seek an adjudication by a dispute settlement panel.
Source : Japan Times
Two men have been charged in Taiwan related to the importing of banned foods from Japan. Authorities in Taiwan have asked Japan to investigate the crime on their end, so far they have received no response.
At the same time Japan is being uncooperative with Taiwan, they are asking China to ease food import restrictions. Japan recently took South Korea to the WTO in an attempt to force them to remove restrictions on suspect food imports. So far there has been no indication Japan intends to do the same to China.
The higher restrictions in place in China have created an additional problem for Japan. If they are able to comply with China’s stringent documentation requirements they have little ability to claim less onerous documentation rules in other countries are too difficult to meet. ipei Times
South China Morning Post
South Korea has prohibited all imports of fishery products from 8 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, since September 2013. The ban came after a massive amount of contaminated wastewater leaked at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The 2 sides agreed on Monday that the talks based on a World Trade Organization agreement will be held on June 24th.
Both sides appear ready to continue discussions the following day should it become necessary.
But whether the import ban will be lifted swiftly remains to be seen.
South Korea maintains it should be lifted in stages. Japan argues that the ban has no scientific basis and should be removed across the board.
Source : NHK
Korea panel backs closure of oldest nuclear reactor
* Application deadline to extend lifespan is June 18, 2015
* KHNP says no decision has yet been made
* Panel hopes closure to build decommissioning technology (Adds more quote and details)
By Meeyoung Cho SEOUL, June 12 (Reuters) – South Korea is expected to shut down its oldest nuclear reactor, the Kori No. 1 unit on the country’s southeastern tip, after a government-led energy advisory panel recommended it be permanently closed.The panel’s decision meant operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd (KHNP) was unlikely to seek a second extension for the nearly 40-year-old plant, whose operating permit expires in June 2017, government and industry sources said…….http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/12/nuclear-southkorea-idUSL3N0YY21O20150612
they should just stop making this toxic stuff
South Korea needs new facility for spent nuclear fuel: advisory group, Reuters, SEOUL | BY MEEYOUNG CHO Editing by Richard Pullin 11 June 15, South Korea should build a new temporary facility to store spent nuclear fuel from 2030 and consider permanent underground storage from the middle of the century, a government advisory body said on Thursday.
South Korea is the world’s fifth-biggest user of nuclear power, but has yet to find a permanent solution for its spent nuclear fuel, with temporary sites at individual nuclear plants likely to start to fill up from 2019.
The Public Engagement Commission, an independent body that advises the government on nuclear issues, said Seoul should select a domestic site by 2020 for an underground laboratory that could conduct safety checks and provide temporary storage.
The facility could become the site for a long-term storage facility, which would bury the country’s nuclear waste 500 meters (1,640 ft) underground and start operations from 2051.
The commission’s recommendations, which are subject to parliamentary hearings, will be given to the country’s energy minister.
Public trust in nuclear energy in South Korea has been undermined by a 2012 scandal over the supply of reactor parts with fake security certificates and the 2011 Fukushima crisis in Japan…http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/11/us-nuclear-southkorea-spentfuel-idUSKBN0OR0AT20150611
Japan’s fisheries minister has expressed hope that South Korea will lift its ban on fishery imports from areas affected by the 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
South Korea has banned all imports of fishery products from 8 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, since September 2013.
On Tuesday, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that South Korea informed Japan last Friday that it will agree to bilateral talks in Geneva, Switzerland, based on a World Trade Organization agreement. Japan requested the meeting last month.
Hayashi said under the WTO rules, negotiations should start within 30 days of a request.
He added that the government will step up efforts to get South Korea to lift the ban, even as a date for the talks is being arranged.
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