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Ruling party chief proposes small modular reactors as way of energy aid to nuke-free N. Korea

Rep. Song Young-gil, chairman of the Democratic Party, delivers a speech during a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Rep. Song Young-gil, chairman of the Democratic Party, delivers a speech during a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The head of South Korea's ruling party on Wednesday proposed the installation of small modular reactors (SMRs) in North Korea, calling it a useful way to supply energy to the country when it is free from nuclear weapons.

"Under the precondition of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, SMRs could be a useful way to supply energy to North Korea that has many mountainous regions and a shortage of power transmission and distribution networks," Rep. Song Young-gil, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said in his speech to a parliamentary plenary session.

"SMR is highly likely to emerge as an effective energy source for Middle Eastern nations or countries with heavy geographical restrictions."

The party chief made the proposal as part of his broader vision to help his country attain carbon neutrality.

"There are barriers to attaining complete carbon neutrality only based on renewable energy. It will be inevitable to come up with an energy mix that taps into hydrogen and nuclear energy (as well) for a pretty long while," Song noted.

South Korea is currently gearing up to harness SMRs as one of its new growth engines to lead the global market. During their summit last month, President Moon Jae-in and US President Joe Biden agreed to join hands in making inroads into foreign markets for nuclear power plants. SMR is a type of lower-maintenance nuclear fission reactor that is smaller than conventional reactors.

Song also pledged his party's support for the commercialization of the indigenous artificial sun technology.

The DP leader also requested President Moon open a new government ministry in charge of policies catering to young people.

"(We) need comprehensive, long-term policies for young people ... I propose the president appoint a new special minister of youth issues to be in charge of housing, employment and education issues for young people."

The proposal was made in the wake of the sensational election of 36-year-old Lee Jun-seok as the new leader of the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP) last week. His election brought to the fore the growing voting power of young people as well as their growing discontent with the political establishment.

"I wish (the PPP), overcoming the impeachment (of former conservative Park Geun-hye), will evolve into a reasonable conservative party," Song said of the PPP. "It will be the beginning of a new change," he said, referring to Lee's recent expression of interest in forming a standing consultative body with the ruling party and the government.

The DP chief also vowed close cooperation with the government to facilitate the payment of the second round of universal COVID-19 stimulus checks as early as before the summer vacation season. (Yonhap)



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