(Korea Times EDITORIAL June 24)

End of nuclear phase-out
Yoon pledges to revive the atomic energy industry

President Yoon Suk-yeol has vowed to rebuild the nuclear power industry which has been devastated by his predecessor’s nuclear exit policy over the past five years. The pledge is part of Yoon’s campaign pledge to resume construction of Shin Hanul 3 and 4 reactors and export 10 nuclear reactors by 2030.

Yoon made the promise on Wednesday when he visited a nuclear reactor production facility run by Doosan Enerbility in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. He became the first Korean president to visit such a factory. His visit was significant because it signified the reversal of former liberal President Moon Jae-in’s misguided drive to reduce the country’s dependence on nuclear power. He practically declared Moon’s policy a total failure.

He was quick to denounce Moon’s nuclear exit policy as “insane”. He said: “If we hadn’t been foolish over the past five years and further strengthened the nuclear energy ecosystem, we probably wouldn’t have any competitors now.” Now is the time to learn from the policy failure and start all over again to get the ailing nuclear power industry back on track.

Yoon’s abandonment of his predecessor’s reckless and ideological politics is a step in the right direction. The first thing Yoon should do is get rid of the misconceptions about nuclear power generation that still prevail among environmental activists and liberal politicians. Korea has already earned an international reputation for its safe operation of nuclear reactors and the development of advanced technologies. It also has many world-class companies, such as Doosan Enerbility, formerly known as Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, which supplies reactors, turbines, boilers and other nuclear equipment and facilities domestically and globally. .

However, the country’s nuclear energy ecosystem has collapsed due to the nuclear phase-out policy. Its reactor exports have been on hold since 2009, when Korea seized on a project to build a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many related companies have been driven out of business. On the contrary, China and Russia have increased their share of the global nuclear power market by filling the void left by Korea.

This misguided policy has also undermined energy security, especially in the face of soaring oil and gas prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A growing number of countries have begun to recognize the importance of nuclear energy in the face of a severe shortage of fossil fuels. The United States, Britain, France and other economies are trying to rebuild nuclear reactors.

Nuclear energy, of course, is not an ideal source of energy, compared to renewable energies such as solar and wind power. But it is seen as one of the most viable options for ensuring a smooth energy transition. It can also help the country achieve its goal of net zero carbon emissions to combat climate change.

We welcome the announcement by the Ministry of Industry of its intention to revitalize the nuclear energy sector. The plans include investing 3.67 trillion won ($2.81 billion) in technology development over the next three years. The government said it will also order 1 trillion won worth of nuclear-related projects from the private sector by 2025. As Yoon noted, the country should do its utmost to win bids to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, Poland and the United States

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