Environmentalists Beg South Korea To Keep Its Nuclear Reactors

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A coalition of scientists and environmentalists sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in Wednesday to caution against a planned shift from nuclear reactors to green energy.

Twenty-seven U.S. scientists and environmentalists signed the letter, arguing that closing nuclear plants would hurt the environment. Without South Korea’s continued expansion of nuclear power, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will rise, air quality will deteriorate and the industry would contract.

“The planet needs a vibrant South Korean nuclear industry, and the South Korean nuclear industry needs you as a strong ally and champion,” read the letter sent by the group Environmental Progress.

“If South Korea withdraws from nuclear the world risks losing a valuable supplier of cheap and abundant energy needed to lift humankind out of poverty and solve the climate crisis,” the letter added.

Hundreds of South Korean professors sent a similar letter, urging Moon to reconsider his stance on nuclear power. The country’s president justified his anti-nuclear policy on fears that a Fukushima-style nuclear meltdown could happen. Moon said that South Korea could run entirely on green energy from wind, solar and hydropower.

Nuclear experts think that the phase out could undermine South Korea’s energy security. Plans to run the country on wind and solar power can’t work, some experts argue.

“South Korea’s retreat from nuclear energy is obviously a politically-inspired aftermath from their recent presidential election as it makes no sense economically,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“South Korea doesn’t have the land mass to support a wholesale expansion of renewables, and you can’t run an industrial country on intermittent resources. They also lack other indigenous energy resources, such as natural gas,” said Blee, who was not involved with the letter.

Scientists and activists wrote that “solar and wind are not alternatives to nuclear” since together they supply less than 2 percent of South Korea’s electricity. In comparison, South Korea gets roughly 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association.

South Korea planned to build enough reactors to provide 60 percent of the nation’s power by 2035, but those plans changed after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan.

The letter notes that, if South Korea abandons nuclear power, it is likely to miss out on a spree of international nuclear construction that its companies would be well positioned to lead.

“The fact is that if the Koreans aren’t building plants at home, they are unlikely to be anything other than a marginal player in the at hand $2.6 trillion world market for new nuclear,” Blee said. “This is a gap, however, the US supply chain can and will fill.”

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