DAEGU ― Now that more than two years have passed since the Fukushima disaster, major energy players are gesturing to bring the much-disputed nuclear industry back on track.
Most participants of the 22nd World Energy Congress, held in Daegu this week and attended by President Park Geun-hye, spoke of the economic, technical, and environmental benefits of nuclear-generated energy.
|President Park Geun-hye delivers a special speech on the trilemma in energy policy during the World Energy Congress in Daegu on Wednesday. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
“The responses immediately after the Fukushima crisis were quick and harsh, leaving little room for nuclear vindication,” said Barry Worthington, executive director of the United States Energy Association, on Wednesday.
Worthington was hosting a session to analyze Fukushima’s effects on the present nuclear energy market and to discuss the acceptability of nuclear power generation.
The slowdown in the nuclear industry was more attributable to the global economic slump than to post-Fukushima distress, according to Echavarri Luis, director general of the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency.
“No nuclear power plant has been shut down due to regulatory reasons, but rather for political or social reasons,” he said.
“Once the world economy recovers within a few years, there will be a soaring need for electricity, especially from developing countries, which will eventually lead to a renewed interest in nuclear power.”
The United Arab Emirates, a heavyweight at the world energy forum, also agrees that the advantages of nuclear-generated electricity may not be dismissed.
“With or without Fukushima in consideration, the energy sector may not but undergo major reforms, due to the promotion of renewable energy and the rise of shale gas,” said Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.
“For the sake of sustainable prosperity, we believe in a balanced energy portfolio, which not only includes conventional fossil fuel and renewable energy, but nuclear energy as well.”
It was on the back of this pro-nuclear stance that Korea won the $20 billion deal in 2010 to build four new nuclear reactors in the Gulf region.
These positive responses came in contrast with that of the Korean government, which recently decided not to expand its nuclear power sector in the future.
In a long-term energy management plan, the state energy consultation group recommended that the ratio of nuclear-powered electricity be kept under the 30 percent ceiling for the next two decades.
This was a visible cut from the 41 percent ratio which had been proposed under the former Lee Myung-bak administration and also a reflection of the public backlash against the nuclear power plants.
“Though it is totally the government’s decision to make, it was low-cost nuclear energy which boosted Korea’s manufacturing and in turn, the nation’s economy,” said Danny Roderick, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric.
Despite the concerns, the president elaborated little on the prospects of the nuclear power business but focused on alternative ways of optimizing energy efficiency.
“We are expanding investment in developing new energy technology such as a smart grid, environment-friendly automobiles and LED,” said President Park in her special speech on Thursday.
“We will actively cooperate in creating energy which is clean, safe and accessible for all.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)