South Korean President Moon Jae-in will give 300 ordinary voters total control over the future of nuclear power in the country.
A nine-person committee will select a jury to decide whether to extend a moratorium on the construction of two nuclear reactors widely regarded as the future of nuclear energy in the country.
The jury will be given three months to make their legally binding decision, which nuclear energy experts say is not enough time to make such a drastic decision.
“This nine-person jury composed of non-technical people appointed by President Moon in a three-month ultimate rush to judgement on the future of nuclear energy attests to the fact that elections have consequences,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Blee and other pro-nuclear experts say that three months is far too short a time to explain the complicated technical details of how reactors function to people without a technical background. They also worry that the novices will be far more persuaded by the emotional appeals of anti-nuclear activists.
“This unelected jury is certainly a novel way of approaching this issue but the potential for an emotional rather than policy driven decision or a kicking of the can down the road is highly probable,” Blee said. “One thing that is abundantly clear is the enormity of the stakes for South Korea’s energy security and economic competitiveness.”
A coalition of scientists and environmentalists sent a letter to Moon Jae-in earlier this month to caution against a planned shift from nuclear reactors to green energy. The experts think that the phase out could undermine South Korea’s energy security.
Scientists and environmentalists 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.
“Nuclear energy has provided South Korea with reliable, cheap, and clean energy and helped the nation to become 12th largest economy in the world,” Blee said. “Korea’s economy is export driven and most export industries are energy intense industries, such as steel, automobile and petrochemicals.”
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.
If South Korea abandons nuclear power, it is likely to miss out on a spree of international nuclear construction that its successful energy companies would be well positioned to lead.
“A phase-out makes little sense dispassionately and hopefully common sense will ultimately prevail as the pros and cons are illuminated in the public discourse ahead notwithstanding this cloistered approach,” Blee said.
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