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South Korea’s Nuclear Obsession via The Diplomat

The fixation on nuclear power ignores Fukushima and the global trend towards renewables.

Five Greenpeace activists last week entered the security zone of the Kori Nuclear Power Plant. Arriving via a black inflatable boat, they climbed out and scampered up a rocky slope, unfurling a bright yellow banner in front of the plant’s fence. For 40 minutes they stood their ground as guards looked on, sirens blazed, and warnings from the Coast Guard were broadcast over the loud speaker.

In South Korea, the world’s fourth largest producer of nuclear power, the government is planning to expand the Kori site. With six reactors online, two waiting for operating license approval, and an additional two planned, it will bring the total number to ten reactors by 2022. Yet with 3.4 million people living within the 30 km zone, major companies such as Hyundai Motors located nearby, and popular Haeundae beach also in the vicinity, it reveals a government in denial of the threat to its people and nation.

But for the government and the industry, the argument is that Korea needs nuclear power. But the reality is that industrial economies, both established and rapidly developing nations, are investing in renewables because they are reliable, affordable, quick to install, safe, and are the best generating technology to reduce carbon emissions. In 2014, Germany, Japan, China, India, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and the Netherlands collectively generated more electricity from renewables (excluding large-scale hydro) than from nuclear power.

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The majority of South Korean people, like the people of Japan, have understood the lessons of Fukushima – that nuclear power is a technology with unacceptable risks. In contrast, both the Abe government in Japan and the administration of Park Geun-hye in South Korea are deliberately ignoring the lessons of Fukushima. It took the Fukushima Daiichi accident to change the mind of one national leader. South Korea should not have to wait for an accident at Kori to have a similar effect.

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