Scandal may cause South Korea to abandon nuclear power

The shift would mean huge increases in energy costs

By Lindsay Abrams

Published October 28, 2013 1:38PM (EDT)

The Kori Nuclear Power Plant in South Korea  (Wikimedia Commons)
The Kori Nuclear Power Plant in South Korea (Wikimedia Commons)

Amid a safety scandal in which 100 people have been indicted for corruption and that has shut down three of the country's 23 nuclear generators, South Korea is reconsidering its reliance on nuclear power, Reuters reports. The shift from nuclear, which currently provides nearly a third of the country's power while only accounting for about 3-4 percent of its energy costs, could cost tens of billions of dollars a year in imports of liquified natural gas, oil or coal.

At a congressional hearing today, politicians estimated that the scandals have already cost the country's nuclear operator $2.8 billion. From Reuters:

The chaos in the industry comes as a government working group recommended on October 13 a cut in South Korea's reliance on nuclear power, pointing to a drop in public confidence in safety that has been exacerbated by Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The study recommended nuclear power capacity be kept between 22 and 29 percent of the total by 2035, well below existing plans to grow the sector to 41 percent in less than 20 years.

The government will hold public hearings to decide whether to back the recommendation before finalizing its energy policy in December.

Consumers may be asked to shoulder much of the estimated fivefold increase in energy costs by 2030, according to local media reports -- or just start using less electricity.

Lindsay Abrams

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Energy Fukushima Natural Gas Nuclear Power South Korea