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South Korea’s Nuclear Energy Debate

 South Korea’s experiment in deliberative democracy will impact President Moon Jae-in’s nuclear phase-out policy. The Diplomat, By Se Young Jang, October 26, 2017……….The current controversy over the Shin Kori is only the beginning of South Korea’s long journey toward achieving a social consensus on its energy policy. The country is still divided on how to plan and prepare for its energy future. Some experts warn that Moon’s nuclear phase-out policy could lead to the sharp rise of electricity bills, a potential energy shortage, and the downturn of South Korea’s nuclear export capacity. They also point out that increasing the share of LNG in South Korea’s energy mix would create another problem, while renewable energy technology is still in a rudimentary stage. In contrast, supporters for Moon’s phase-out policy assert that safety and environmental concerns should be given first priority, rather than economic gains, and argue that less dangerous LNG could be used as a bridge energy source until renewables become more competitive. Even though nuclear safety measures would be sufficiently advanced, critics argue that the impact of any nuclear accident caused by human mistakes or misjudgment would be far more critical than accidents involving other sources of electricity generation.

On the one hand, the key schism here has been created by the lack of transparency in planning and implementing nuclear energy policy, which has been heavily dominated by key stakeholders including the central government, KHNP, nuclear academia, and business for several decades. The cover-up of a station blackout incident at the Kori nuclear power plant and the falsification of safety documents for nuclear power plant components are only a few examples among many. Although the knowledge and opinion of experts on nuclear technology should be respected in any case, it is notable that today’s conflicts on South Korea’s nuclear energy future are deeply rooted in the public’s growing distrust of the expert community, which failed to assure the public of their expertise in successfully preventing and controlling a potential nuclear accident…….

The deliberative polling with regard to the resumption of construction on the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors had its own limits, such as insufficient time assigned for deliberation and a lack of consideration for the voices of local residents around the plant. Despite these limits, this experiment in deliberative democracy is expected to serve as an important precedent for the new administration’s work on peacefully resolving or managing conflicts over other highly divisive issues, like the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Both pro- and anti-nuclear energy advocates, in addition to the Moon administration, now face a new task: how to effectively inform and persuade the public in this era of deliberative democracy. Politics is an art of persuasion, after all.

Se Young Jang is a nonresident scholar at the Nuclear Policy Program in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. more https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/south-koreas-nuclear-energy-debate/

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October 27, 2017 - Posted by | politics, South Korea

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