The chief of the main opposition party on Tuesday expressed strong opposition to extending the life span of an aged nuclear reactor, saying the government should demonstrate its sincerity about improving public safety.
The remarks by Moon Jae-in, chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, came two days before the nation's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, is scheduled to discuss the issue of whether to restart the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor.
The 678-megawatt heavy-water reactor located on South Korea's southeast coast has been dormant since its technical license expired in November 2012, following 30 years of commercial operation.
Moon accused President Park Geun-hye's government of endangering the public once again after failing to prevent the tragedy of April's ferry sinking that claimed the lives of more than 300 people.
"Following the disaster, President Park promised a safe Republic of Korea," he said during a meeting on blocking the extension of the reactor's life span. "Shutting down the Wolsong-1 and Gori-1 reactors would be symbolic of her sincerity."
In 2007, the government extended the life span of the 580-megawatt Gori No. 1 light-water reactor, which began commercial operations in 1977, by 10 years.
"If the life span of the Wolsong-1 reactor is extended, it would be a betrayal of President Park's promise," Moon said.
The state-run Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety in October completed inspection of the reactor and concluded it can be operated for another 10 years. However, the NSSC has delayed its decision on mounting questions over the reactor's safety, especially after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
The decision is being closely watched as it could affect reviews of the nation's other reactors nearing retirement.
According to a survey of 1,000 adults conducted on Monday, 60.8 percent said the Wolsong-1 should be shut down for safety reasons, environmental group Friends of the Earth Korea said in a news conference.
Of the remainder, 30.4 said the reactor can be restarted if it passes safety tests, while 8.8 percent gave other answers. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
"According to the results of the survey, the majority wanted the Wolsong-1 to be shut down and felt a lack of communication in the current review process," an official of the organization said. "The government should not push ahead with extending its life span but reflect such public opinion."
South Korea has 23 nuclear reactors in operation, from which it currently gets about 30 percent of its electricity supply, and is building several more. (Yonhap)