The government will accelerate efforts to slash South Korea's dependence on nuclear energy as recommended by a state-organized committee.
During a meeting presided over by President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday, the Cabinet vowed to maintain a policy initiative focused on securing more sources of renewable energy.
Under the initiative, the government plans to reduce the number of nuclear reactors from the current 24 to 14 by the year 2038.
However, the government has resumed the stalled construction of the Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors located near Ulsan, following the state committee’s recommendation to do so.
The government said it will also work to faithfully adopt other recommendations made by the committee, such as stronger safety standards, more investment in renewable energy and ways to handle spent nuclear fuel.
Under the roadmap, plans to build six new reactors will be completely scrapped, while lifespan extensions on 14 aging reactors will be prohibited. In addition, the Wolsong-1 reactor will be shut down at an earlier date due to stability concerns of the power supply.
The government said that related costs will be partly financed through idle funds after discussions between ministries and deliberations by parliament. It said that a law related to funding could be legislated if necessary.
Observers say this shows the government has partially accepted demands by the nuclear energy sector for the state to shoulder a portion of the costs resulting from policy measures.
The government will also seek to develop technologies involved in the dismantlement of nuclear power plants. This power plant dismantlement market is expected to grow considerably in the coming years and Korea will review setting up a related research institute in a bid to take the lead in the sector.
Seoul will also push for summit or ministerial talks with countries including the UK, Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic to support the export of Korean nuclear power plants abroad.
The roadmap is a clear message that, although construction of the two Shin Kori reactors has resumed, the government is determined to move away from nuclear power in line with public sentiment and global trends.
The nuclear energy sector and opposition parties argue this post-nuclear policy stance should also undergo a public discussion process. Local communities where power plants were scheduled to be built before being scrapped are also in protest.
State support for the export of power plants is also viewed as contradicting the overarching roadmap.