Nuclear Phase-out Leads to More Dirty Coal-Fired Power

  • By Ahn Joon-ho

    June 19, 2018 12:08

    Nuclear power generation fell 37 percent from two years ago and 29 percent compared to a year ago in the first quarter after President Moon Jae-in pledged last year to abandon nuclear power.

    Eight out of the country's 24 nuclear reactors stopped running because the government decided not to extend their life cycle, resulting in an operating rate of 58 percent, down from 80 percent in 2016.

    But that led to a rise in heavily polluting coal-fired power generation -- six percent on-year and 22 percent from 2016 -- despite Moon's promise to reduce it as well to improve air quality. 

    The government did try to boost solar and wind power generation but quickly realized that it is not yet able to provide a steady volume of affordable energy from renewable sources.

    Another side effect of phasing out nuclear power is worsening earnings for state-run power provider KEPCO and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power due to increasing coal and LNG power generation.

    KEPCO suffered two straight quarters of operating losses of around W120 billion (US$1=W1,105). If this situation continues, electricity prices will have to rise.

    Huge amounts of taxes are being wasted by the halt of the construction of nuclear power plants and shutdown of reactors. Work on two new reactors at the Gori nuclear power plant in South Gyeongsang Province had to be halted, which caused losses of W122.8 billion.

    Also lost were W93.7 billion that had already gone into planning four new reactors and W700 billion spent to extend the life span of the No. 1 reactor in Wolseong, South Gyeongsang Province, which the government then decided to shut down after all.

    KHNP's debts surged by W2.8 trillion in just one year. Smaller power generation companies are issuing bonds to deal with their cash crunch.

    Lee Deok-hwan at Sogang University said, "Electricity demand will inevitably rise due to electric cars and the focus on IT-based businesses. Many countries are building more nuclear power plants to meet the demand for affordable electricity." 

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