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[Editorial] Nuclear scare

It is ironical that President Lee Myung-bak attended the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for a multibillion dollar nuclear power plant Korea is to build in the United Arab Emirates while world attention is directed at nuclear power stations on the northeastern coast of Japan, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami Friday afternoon.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told President Lee, who called him to convey his condolences and sympathy for the disaster, that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex was different from that of Chernobyl in 1986. Even under the pressure of catastrophe, the Japanese leader must have wanted to ease a possible nuclear scare in Korea, his country’s geographically closest neighbor.

As a country that gets 40 percent of its electricity supply from 20 nuclear reactors and has developed a high level of nuclear power generation technologies that it seeks to use in overseas projects, a nuclear disaster on top of the earthquake in Japan poses serious concerns. Korea will have to make a thorough review of its energy plans while conducting extensive checkups of all its reactors and power generation facilities.

We pray that there will be no meltdown in the reactors at the Fukushima complex, where a state of emergency was declared after an explosion Saturday blew up the containment building of one of the reactors. The operators will surely do everything they can to bring down the heat and pressure in the reactor vessels for the crucial next few days. It is relieving that the exposure to radiation in and around the nuclear complex has not reached dangerous levels.

Environmentalist movements against the construction of nuclear power plants will grow intensive here and overseas in the wake of the earthquake in Japan. But mankind is forced to use atomic power as fossil fuels run out. The only solution is making maximum safeguards with strenuous public education about how to live safely with this potentially dangerous source of energy.
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