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Secrecy cloaks South Korea’s civil nuclear program via Reuters

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Until 2011, the polls were published annually, but since the March 2011 Fukushima accident, the world’s second worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl, no survey has been published.

Opposition legislators say that the ministry cannot be trusted with running the nuclear program and oversight.

“It’s like letting a cat run a fish market,” said Kang Chang-il, an opposition legislator who is chairman of parliament’s Commerce and Energy Committee.

“There is a major structural problem in the way the nuclear industry operates as officials and experts have worked in the same jobs for decades and they have been able to keep outsiders out.”

Woo revealed in October in parliament that the proportion of people who thought nuclear was safe fell to 34 percent this March from 53.3 percent in 2010, before the Fukishima accident, in regular polls conducted by the Korean Nuclear Energy Promotion Agency (KONEPA).

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A campaign group called “Fight against the Samcheok Nuclear Plant” tried last month to impeach the town’s pro-nuclear mayor, but failed to muster enough support.

Many in Samcheok appeared to support the government view, contrasting its economic malaise with the boom in nearby Uljin which is already home to six reactors.

“Samcheok’s population is 70,000 but Uljin with just 50,000 people has all kinds of brand-name shops such as Kumkang Shoes (a leading Korean brand) that Samcheok doesn’t have,” said Chun Sung-il, 46, a leading light in a local pro-nuclear group who runs a kindergarten and English language school in the town.

The reactors will cost an estimated 24 trillion won ($22.06 billion) and pro-nuclear activists in the town say the municipality’s coffers will benefit to the tune of 6.2 trillion won during the plant’s construction and operational life, breathing life back into the economically strapped community.

Despite the dwindling numbers at the protests, the Catholic priest who leads the Wednesday vigil will keep up the pressure.

“When the trials come again, we will stand up and walk in God’s way, the anti-nuclear way,” Park Hong-pyo told his flock.

“A decisive factor that has allowed South Korean governments to keep pursuing nuclear energy is that there are people who live on nuclear plants — the large conglomerates and the bureaucrats. They are connected in a food chain,” Park told Reuters after the vigil.

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