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Korea to retire 10 aged coal power plants

The Korea government said Wednesday it will shut down 10 aged coal-fired power plants in the coming 10 years and no longer build new ones as part of its efforts to reduce air pollution and tackle worsening fine dust emissions.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said that it will close 10 coal stations aged 30 years or over, with a combined capacity of 3.3 million kilowatts, one by one when they reach the end of their respective operational life span.

Two power plants on the country's west coast will face the first shutdown in 2018, with the closure program to be completed by 2025.

"We will not allow new coal plants to be built in the country," said Deputy Trade Minister Chae Hee-bong said in a briefing. "Only renewable green energy power stations will produce electricity in the country."

The outdated coal plants have been singled out as the main culprits of fine dust, along with old diesel vehicles. Out of 53 coal power plants operating in South Korea, 10 are over 30 years old.

Coal-powered electricity accounted for 28 percent of the country's total power production in 2015, following by nuclear power with 33 percent.

The government will inject 2 trillion won ($1.73 billion) to help retrofit eight coal generators aged 20 year old or over to improve their efficiency and reduce sulfuric acid emissions.

The remaining 35 plants will be equipped with desulfurization system, added the ministry.

The plan details the follow-up measures to the Korean government's efforts unveiled last month to control fine dust which has recently emerged as one of the biggest threats to public health, as the country has increasingly become more dust-polluted.

Fine dust refers to particles that are smaller than 10 micrometers and have been known to cause various respiratory problems while also affecting the body's immune system.

The country has been experiencing frequent ultrafine alerts especially in the spring, with people required to refrain from outdoor activities.

Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan said the latest plan will decrease fine dust by 24 percent by 2030.

"We will invest a total of 10 trillion won ($8.6 billion) to carry out the plan by 2030," said the minister. "As a result, the percentage of coal-fired power will decrease to 26.2 percent in 2029 from the current 28 percent." (Yonhap)