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South Korean Town to Put Nuclear Plan to Vote via ABC News

Fighting plans to build a nuclear power plant, a South Korean fishing village is holding a referendum Thursday, even though the government has warned the vote is illegal.

A site in Samcheok, 195 kilometers (120 miles) east of Seoul, was picked by the energy ministry after a previous city government applied in 2010 for a nuclear power facility. But attitudes have shifted since Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima.

Now, the city council has set up a volunteer committee to conduct a vote on whether Samcheok still wants the plant after election authorities refused to administer the referendum. Supporters of the nuclear plant say they will boycott.

South Koreans’ pride in the country’s nuclear power industry has eroded since scandals erupted last year over revelations hundreds of faulty components may have been used in reactors. That forced nearly half the country’s 23 reactors to shut down.

Critics of nuclear reactors also became more vocal about safety after an April ferry sinking killed hundreds of people and fueled complaints the country emphasized profit over safety.

In Samcheok, about 39,000 out of 61,000 registered local voters signed up to take part, and about 70 percent were expected to vote, according to Chung Yeon-man, a committee member.

Nuclear energy supplied a quarter of South Korea’s power last year, and the government wants to boost that to 29 percent by 2035. That would require adding 7 gigawatts of generating capacity, or the equivalent of five 1.4-gigawatt reactors.

The country also is starting to export nuclear technology. It won a $20 billion contract from the United Arab Emirates in 2009.

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