South Korea To Dump Nuclear Power, Embrace More Renewables

Nuclear power in South Korea

Kori Nuclear Plant reactors 1-4 right to left | Image:  IAEA Imagebank – 04790180, CC BY-SA 2.0

Making good on his election vows, South Korea’s new president says the country will dump plans for new nuclear power generation and not extend the life of existing reactors.

According to a report on Channel News Asia, President Moon Jae-in made the announcement at an event marking the permanent shuttering of  South Korea’s oldest nuclear reactor, Kori No.1, which had been operating since 1978.

With Kori No.1 shut down, the country still has 23 nuclear reactors in operation. The Shin Wolsong 2 reactor, which commenced operations in 2015, is the youngest – so a nuclear power free South Korea may be quite a way off. The demise of Kori 2, 3 and 4 may be in the not too distant future as those reactors commenced operations in the early to mid-80’s.

The President stated he would seek to have what is now the nation’s oldest operating plant, Wolsong No.1, shut down as soon as practicable.

Coal imports may also be in President Moon Jae-in’s crosshairs during his term. In May, RenewEconomy reported one of his election commitments was to permanently close ten old coal-fired plants earlier than scheduled, and re-examine plans to construct nine new plants.

According to Australian Mining, 15% of Australia’s coal exports in 2014 were to South Korea; approximately $5.24B worth of the fossil fuel.

A Renewable Energy Boost

Another of  President Moon Jae-in’s pre-election pledges was to increase the use of renewable energy in South Korea to 20% by 2030.

Last year, South Korea’s then-government announced it would invest USD $36.6 billion in developing its renewable energy industries by 2020 and there was talk of incentives for utility-scale solar-plus-storage installations.

Solar power has started getting a foothold in the country in recent years, with an estimated 3,615MW capacity in 2015; nearly 50% more than in 2014. In 2016, solar capacity reached 4.35GW.

Around the world, the renewable energy juggernaut is rumbling on, leaving postponed, closed and stranded coal and nuclear power station assets in its wake.

Recently we mentioned the USA’s infamous Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI) was at risk of closing due to competition from renewables and gas. In India, USD $15 billion worth of coal power plants  are up for grabs – and it appears no-one wants them.

Last month, voters in Switzerland endorsed a government plan to boost renewables including wind and solar power and phase out nuclear energy.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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