|Shin Kori No. 5 and 6 in a southeastern city of Ulsan. Yonhap|
Construction of Shin Kori No. 5 and 6 reactors, located in a southeastern city of Ulsan, was halted at about 28 percent completion in July, amid the Moon administration’s drive to turn energy policy away from nuclear power toward renewables. The government, by forming the committee to gauge public opinions from different interest groups, said it would accept whichever result the people make.
For the past three months, the nine-member panel has collected opinions from experts and members of the public on the issue as well as the government’s energy policy. It has conducted four rounds of surveys in which over 20,000 people nationwide responded.
“A citizen jury,” consisting 471 ordinary citizens, was also formed to participate in the process. Last week, the jurors, ranging from those in their 20s to senior citizens, held a three-day marathon discussion.
By Friday, the committee will incorporate all of the past works into a final opinion on whether to abort the construction or allow it to proceed.
During the presidential electioneering earlier this year, President Moon promised to cancel the construction of nuclear reactors and fundamentally phase out all of the country’s nuclear power plants by 2050.
Currently, Korea has 24 nuclear reactors in operation, from which it gets about a third of the country’s total electricity.
Last week, Moon said he would not seek to single-handedly push ahead with his election pledge, given a division of public opinions, reiterating that he will “accept the results no matter what.”
The committee’s final decision will be televised live on Friday, while the government will make the final choice on the construction during the Cabinet meeting next Tuesday.
The issue has bisected South Korea’s society, not just the general public but the academia as well. As of Tuesday, an online website to gather public opinions on Shin Kori No. 5 and 6 had over 8,200 online posts from citizens, discussing the merits or demerits of building more nuclear reactors. Separate opinion polls, commissioned by media companies, have shown the public is nearly evenly split with differences of less than 5 percentage points.
Whichever conclusion the committee reaches it would become a watershed for the future of Korea’s energy industry, experts said.
Environmentalists claimed the costs of nuclear risks and waste disposal are significant, although estimates vary.
Meanwhile, pro-nuclear experts claimed that the government should not waste the country’s competent technologies and skills to build nuclear reactors, which can continue to provide “clean and stable” energy for the future.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)