October 24, 2017 12:56
President Moon Jae-in has accepted a recommendation from a special panel to resume construction of two nuclear reactors near the southern city of Ulsan but vowed to ban constructing any new nuclear power plants to pursue his nuclear-free policy. Failing to address what to do with the country's accumulated technologies and knowhow in the field, he instead stressed that the government will nurture nuclear dismantlement technologies.
Moon said he will set up a research center that will study ways to dismantle nuclear power plants and enable Korea to become a world leader in these new technologies. That seems to be aimed at quashing criticism that his nuclear-free policy could end up costing Korea valuable export revenues.
The global market for dismantling aging nuclear power plants is worth an estimated W300 trillion over the next 50 years, compared to W600 trillion of the nuclear plant construction market for the next 30 years. Not only is the dismantlement market small, but it produces low profitability as a project takes 15 years to complete and 40 percent of the costs are consumable expenses. It is foolish to abandon a huge market to chase after a small one. It is like giving up on making cars and embracing the scrap metal business.
At any rate, the dismantlement market is already dominated by the U.S., France and Germany. Korea is a competitive player in the nuclear plant market, but its dismantlement technology lags behind advanced countries'. It really has no experience in dismantling aging nuclear plants save a couple of reactors used for research purposes. But in any market a player needs a proven track record, and that will take at least 10 years. There is no telling when any profits will start flowing in.
When Moon was predictably criticized for failing to address what it will do with the country's accumulated nuclear plant technologie, Cheong Wa Dae said it will work to boost their exports, but which foreign country would turn to a country that is phasing out its own nuclear power plants?
Cheong Wa Dae spent W100 billion on deciding whether to keep building the two reactors even though they will account for only four percent Korea's total power production. But it wants to get rid of the rest that supply 30 percent. This stubborn adherence to Moon's anti-nuclear campaign pledges has resulted in completely schizophrenic policies.
Countries need to diversity their energy sources to prepare for emergencies. It is time Moon spoke to proper experts to come up with a realistic energy mix, instead of setting the agenda himself and then having everyone scrabble around within this impossible framework.
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