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Updated: 2017.11.20 21:48
 
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When Mother Nature Meets Man-Made Wonder
[ Issue 156 Page 13 ] Monday, September 25, 2017, 20:38:13 Hyunwoo Shin Staff Reporter hwshin0102@kaist.ac.kr

 The Future of Nuclear Energy in Korea

The Moon administration plans to phase-out nuclear energy in South Korea over the next few decades, and has already decommissioned a nuclear power plant and halted the construction of two new ones. This policy has been met with strong opposition from both within and without the nation, placing the future of Korea’s energy production at a critical juncture.

With the rise of a new South Korea, the use of nuclear energy has been one of the areas in which President Moon showed interest. Arguments on nuclear power have been largely divided between option A — build more nuclear power plants and invest in nuclear power research — and option B — a complete phase-out of all of the nuclear power plants. Moon is looking for a radical approach involving the complete phase-out of nuclear power plants. I believe that because of the potential dangers of the power plants, some of them should be closed, but a complete phase-out is definitely not a viable option.

South Korea hadn’t been known for its earthquakes until 2016 when the Yangsan fault was followed by the Gyeongju earthquake. With a value of 5.4 on the moment magnitude scale, the Gyeongju earthquake held the record for the strongest earthquake in the history of the Korean peninsula. Although the geography of Korea was once thought to be somewhat protected from natural disasters such as earthquakes, the continuously shifting tectonic plates underneath Korea expose it to natural disasters more than ever before. With a change in atmosphere must come a change in our lifestyles. If there’s one thing that mankind needs to learn quickly, it is to not make the same mistake twice. Hence, it is time that South Korea learns from the 2011 Fukushima disaster that still has lasting effects on its neighbor Japan, and makes sure to be more thoughtful about the choices it makes in regards to building more nuclear reactors on the peninsula.

It would be impossible to completely get rid of the 24 nuclear reactors that provide one-third of the electricity in South Korea. Although, it is understood that much research is going into the prevention of nuclear waste leakage in the face of natural disasters, it is showing absolutely no signs of being commercialized or applied on the Korean nuclear power plants, which leaves us with a big question of how long we have to wait until such safety measures are taken. With the clock ticking, it is imperative that we get rid of these machines of destructive potential before it is all but too late. Furthermore, the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy needs to be more aware of Korea’s changing environment and stop its plans of building 80 by 2030. Moon’s approach, however, is too drastic, impractical, and impossible.

Compared to coal-fired power plants, nuclear power is more readily accessible. Therefore, it has to be understood that it is impossible to completely get rid of the preexisting nuclear power plants as they are already in operation and it would actually be more harmful to the environment to get rid of these power plants and replace them with coal-powered ones. As for the other more natural sources of energy like solar, wind, and water, they all share similar problems in regards to replacing the existing nuclear power plants due to economic inefficiency and limitations in the potential amount of energy produced.

This points to the conclusion that research must not go into nuclear power development but instead into both the maintenance of the currently existing power plants in preparation for the threats of natural disasters and the proper way to reduce the current number of nuclear power plants with support from other energy sources. Let not the world witness another sight of utter destruction when Mother Nature meets man-made wonder.

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