President Moon Jae-in on Monday pledged to halt the construction of new nuclear power plants and no longer extend the life of aging reactors, which had been among his stump promises.
Speaking at an event marking the shutdown of a nuclear reactor in Busan, he said, "The shutdown is the beginning of a nuclear-free energy country, a paradigm shift for a safer Korea."
The plan is to boost renewable energy and liquefied natural gas. The government aims to reduce dependence on nuclear power from the current 30 percent to 18 percent by 2030, while increasing the proportion of LNG from 18 to 37 percent and of renewable energy from four to 20 percent.
But it currently costs twice as much to generate power from LNG, which is 100-percent imported, than through nuclear reactors, and renewables like solar and wind power fluctuate with the weather and remain expensive.
Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan are also shutting down their nuclear reactors but made their decision over 20 years of discussions.
Moon stressed that the nuclear shutdown will be a gradual process so the country has enough time to come up with alternative energy sources.