Kim Ji-hyung, head of public debate committee on Shin Kori 5 and 6, announced Friday the survey result recommending resumption of the construction of the two nuclear reactors.
In a closely-watched finding that could shape the future of the country’s energy policy and fate of Korea’s highly prized nuclear-reactor industry, a civilian commission recommended Seoul to keep the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors which are already 30 percent complete alive instead of stopping the construction as previously proposed by the government.
The commission hands in the recommendation report to the government. Construction is expected to resume soon as the government previously said it will follow the commission advice although it is not legally binding.
The commission set up to gauge public opinion whether to permanently stop the construction or resume it after the government suspended the project three months ago said in a press conference on Friday that its fourth and final survey on a selected group of 471 citizens showed 59.5 percent was for resumption of the construction and 40.5 percent for cease.
“The poll result was beyond the error of margin, and is therefore strategically meaningful,” said Kim Ji-hyung, head of the commission. The finding had a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error at plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The citizens out of random choice of 20,000 who willingly took part in the survey listened pros and cons from experts and held debates before making four rounds of votes.
“The more we voted, the more turned supportive of resumption. The opinion favoring resumption significantly rose among the age group of 20s and 30s,” he said.
The construction of Shin Kori 5 and 6 was put on hold after President Moon Jae-in announced in June a plan to wean the country from nuclear power which currently is in charge of a third of the country’s electricity supply. The phase-out would be decommissioning aged reactors and scrapping plans to build new ones. He ordered suspension on the two reactors under construction and created a commission to ask the public their opinion on his plan to pull the plug on the two reactors.
The government has already spent 1.6 trillion won ($1.4 billion) on the project of Shin Kori 5 and 6, which is 30 percent complete. Other rectors under construction are more than 90 percent complete and therefore cannot be reversed.
The new reactors are based on indigenous APR 1400 technology, a design the country has exported to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth near $20 billion in 2009. Experts have warned that the abandonment of reactor technology in Korea could hurt exports prospects and also ruin the reactor industry that had been hard-built over the last three decades.
Meanwhile, the commission sided with the government’s long-term plan to phase out of nuclear power, citing a separate survey showing a 53.2 percent approval for phase-out and a 36.5 percent for keeping the status quo on current level of reactors, and 9.7 percent for additions. There are currently 24 reactors operating in Korea.
The new reactors at Shin Kori are scheduled to be completed in 2022 once construction restarts immediately. A rector usually has a life cycle of 60 years.
The government will endorse the plan at upcoming cabinet meeting next Tuesday.
By Ko Jae-man and Choi Mira
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]