South Korea to Restart Nuclear Power Plant Exports Under Yoon’s Leadership

By Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
July 12, 2022 Updated: July 12, 2022

South Korea has been actively pursuing talks with some nations for nuclear energy projects, as its president aimed to revive the country’s nuclear energy industry and boost nuclear power’s contribution to 30 percent by 2030.

Trade, Industry, and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang visited the Czech Republic and Poland last month to promote South Korean nuclear power plants.

The meetings resulted in South Korea signing 10 memorandums of understanding with the Czech Republic on nuclear energy and hydrogen cooperation, and nine agreements with Poland on nuclear energy.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin also met with the U.S. secretary of energy in Washington last month to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in the overseas market of nuclear plants.

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power signed an agreement with Kazakhstan on June 28 to build two nuclear power plants with a capacity of up to 2,800 MW. The project is expected to commence in 2029, Business Korea reported.

These projects follow President Yoon Suk-yeol’s goal to revive South Korea’s status as a key exporter of safe nuclear reactors and export 10 nuclear reactors by 2030.

The government said on July 5 that it will restart construction on two nuclear reactors at the Shin-Hanul nuclear plant and continue to operate nuclear energy facilities that are already running.

Nuclear Phaseout ‘Idiotic’

Boosting nuclear energy marks a sharp policy reversal from that of the previous government, led by then-President Moon Jae-in, who had pushed to phase out nuclear power over some 45 years.

Construction work on the two nuclear reactors had been stalled since 2017 when Moon took office.

During his visit to Doosan Enerbility in Changwon last month, Yoon criticized his predecessor’s nuclear phaseout decision as “idiotic” and pledged to boost South Korea’s competitiveness in the nuclear energy industry.

“If the people who were pushing the nuclear phaseout had actually seen the industrial ecosystem for themselves, I doubt they could have made that decision,” he was quoted as saying by local outlet Hankyoreh.

“Korean nuclear power plants are recognized as being the best in the world in terms of their safety and technological prowess. The door to the nuclear power plant export market is wide open,” Yoon added.

Nuclear power currently makes up roughly 27 percent of the country’s energy mix. According to the World Nuclear Association, South Korea currently has 25 nuclear reactors in operation. It also constructed four nuclear reactors in Barakah, the United Arab Emirates.

A 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged three nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant triggered a global downturn in the nuclear power industry.

Public sentiment around nuclear power leaned further toward caution in 2016 after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake hit the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula, where most of the country’s nuclear plants are located.

Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.

Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.