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New South Korean president vows to end use of nuclear power via The Guardian

Moon Jae-in said he would lead country towards a ‘nuclear-free era’ following fears of a Fukushima-style meltdown

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to phase out the country’s dependence on nuclear power, warning of “unimaginable consequences” from a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Moon, a left-leaning liberal who won last month’s presidential election by a landslide following the impeachment and arrest of Park Geun-hye, said he would increase the role of renewable energy and lead South Korea towards a “nuclear-free era”.

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“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era. We will completely scrap construction plans for new nuclear reactors that are currently under way.”

Moon added that he would not extend the operation of ageing reactors, many of which will come to the end of their lifespans between 2020 and 2030.

Weaning South Korea off nuclear power, however, could take decades, and there is expected to be opposition from construction companies, which have increased technology exports under Moon’s nuclear-friendly predecessors.

The country was the fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy last year, according to the World Nuclear Association, with its 25 reactors generating about a third of its electricity.

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Anti-nuclear campaigners have long warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of a meltdown at a nuclear plant in South Korea, where many reactors are close to densely populated areas.

The public’s support for nuclear power has weakened since the 2011 Fukushima meltdown and a 2013 corruption scandal over fake safety certificates for reactor parts.

“The Fukushima nuclear accident has clearly proved that nuclear reactors are neither safe, economical nor environmentally friendly,” Yonhap news agency quoted Moon as saying.

“South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquakes, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact.”

He also plans to close at least 10 ageing coal-fired power plants before his term ends in 2022 and to boost renewables’ share of the energy mix to 20% by 2030.

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