Published : 2013-10-06 19:19
Updated : 2013-10-06 19:19
Work resumed on Wednesday after more than four months of suspension on the construction of a high-voltage power line in rural villages in South Gyeongsang Province. But nothing much has since changed, with residents, environmentalists and antinuclear activists staging violent protests to disrupt construction again.
Korea Electric Power Corp. cannot afford to endure any more delays in the construction of a 765 kilovolt transmission line linking a nuclear power plant under construction in Ulsan to a substation in the provincial town of Changnyeong. It needs to speed up work on the transmission line if it wishes to free itself from the specter of blackouts next summer.
The nuclear power plant under construction, whose dedication is scheduled for next March, is set to produce 1.4 million kilowatts of power when it goes into full operation. This should be of great help to the government-owned utility company, whose power reserves plunged to dangerous levels again this summer.
The government has done its share of work to persuade residents to stop their violent opposition to the construction. In addition to KEPCO’s compensation, including relocation subsidies, the government has promised to help invigorate the local economy.
During his visit to the county of Miryang last month, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won appealed to the residents to settle their dispute with KEPCO and let construction proceed. Among the incentives he offered was a promise that the county would host a national complex for the nanotechnology industry.
The prime minister’s appeal, however, proved to have fallen on deaf ears when diehard opponents staged violent demonstrations as soon as construction resumed. Environmental and antinuclear activists joined local residents in their clash with KEPCO officials and policemen. Some of the protesters were arrested when they forcibly entered construction sites.
KEPCO and the government cannot afford to offer any more concessions to local protesters, who demand that power be transmitted underground, citing health hazards from overhead cables. But an underground power line is not a viable option, with its construction cost estimated at as much as 2 trillion won. Nor would it be justifiable if KEPCO offered greater compensation for Miryang residents than it had done for those in other counties, where transmission towers had already been built with their consent.
But enforcing construction with police protection alone has its limits, as evidenced by past delays. A more efficient means can be found in the intervention of the court, with which KEPCO filed an injunction against those obstructing construction in August.
A local court on Jejudo Island set an example when it issued an injunction against protesters obstructing the construction of a naval base in 2011. Construction proceeded smoothly after the court decided to impose a fine of 2 million won each time any of them breached the injunction.
It seems inevitable that the local court in Changwon will intervene, given that no more delay can be tolerated on the construction of the transmission line. The court is called on to hasten its decision on KEPCO’s request for an injunction.