|Korean Nuclear Society President Kim Hark-rho speaks during a press conference at Sejong Center in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Thursday. / Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Seven out of 10 Koreans support the use of nuclear power as an energy source, a poll showed Thursday, dealing a heavy blow to the Moon Jae-in administration's policy of phasing out nuclear power plants.
According to the survey revealed by the Korean Nuclear Society (KNS) and two other academic groups, 71.6 percent of 1,000 respondents said they support using nuclear energy, while 26 percent said they are against it.
Also in the survey, 69.3 percent of the respondents said the government should expand or maintain the use of nuclear power plants, while 28.9 percent said the government should lower its reliance on nuclear power.
To a question on the government's energy policy, 50.1 percent of the respondents said they are against it, outnumbering the 45.5 percent who said they support the scaling back of nuclear power.
"This shows that the government's post-nuclear policy is not supported by the majority of the public," the KNS said in a press conference. "The government's energy roadmap has its gist in the expansion of solar, wind and renewable energies, which could be popular among the public, but the roadmap is not properly appraised due to the side impact of the post-nuclear policy."
The Moon Jae-in government has been pushing forward a series of energy policies to lower Korea's reliance on nuclear plants, deciding to shut down the Wolsong-1 reactor as well as scrap plans to build four new nuclear power plants.
The plans, however, faced doubts as the country's electricity demand soared far above the government's initial anticipation amid a scorching heat wave baking the nation.
In the Eighth Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand, which is Korea's basic roadmap for its electricity supply up to 2031, the government anticipated the country's power demand would peak at 87.5 million kilowatts a day this year, but demand reached 91.55 million kilowatts on Tuesday.
This raised concerns the government was setting the outlook "too low" in order to provide a basis for its post-nuclear policy and the country may experience blackouts or massive hikes in electricity bills.
"The government should correct its failed anticipation in the Eighth Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand and should come up with a more reasonable energy policy," the KNS said.
Lee Duck-hwan, a professor at Sogang University, said: "The government pledged that electricity bills will rise only 10.9 percent by 2030, but the Korea Electric Power Corp. has suffered a loss this year, after reflecting the 560 billion won costs for shutting down the Wolsong-1 reactor, weighing on the state-run company to raise electricity prices."
"To the question about preferred energy source, nuclear was picked as the second-most-preferred energy source," KNS President Kim Hark-rho said. "This shows that even if the government pursues renewable energies, it should not neglect its support for nuclear power."