South Korea Targets 29 Percent Nuclear Power Reliance by 2035

Nuclear power will account for 29 percent of South Korea’s power generation capacity in 2035, lower than a 41 percent goal introduced in 2008, according to a draft proposal of the country’s next long-term energy plan.

The plan, submitted by the energy ministry to parliament today and subject to a public hearing tomorrow, would raise nuclear reliance from 26.4 percent as of the end of 2012. The government is also planning to reduce power demand by 15 percent from a projected 70.2 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2035, according to the draft. That compares with 39.1 million tonnes in 2011, the ministry said.

The government’s 29 percent target for nuclear reliance represents the upper-end of a 22 percent to 29 percent range recommended by an energy ministry working group in October, which took into account rising public opposition to nuclear power in South Korea following the Fukushima disaster and a domestic safety scandal. Vice Energy Minister Han Jin Hyun declined to comment when asked by lawmakers how many new reactors will be needed.

“It was inevitable that the ministry would opt for nuclear reliance to be 29 percent of power generation capacity because we have to consider energy security and a reduction of carbon emissions,” Han said at a parliament trade, industry and energy committee meeting shown on the Internet.

South Korea currently has 23 reactors with plans to build another 11. The 29 percent goal would require a total of 45 reactors by 2035, according to Lee Won Wook, an opposition lawmaker who sits on the committee.

“It’s absurd that energy ministry officials have no idea how many reactors should be built in the long-term plan,” he said at the committee briefing today.

Unpopular Power

Surveys show nuclear power is becoming increasingly socially unacceptable in South Korea. Sixty-three percent of respondents to a March survey by pollster Hangil Research said they consider domestic reactors unsafe. That compared with 54 percent in a year-earlier poll by the non-profit Korean Federation for Environmental Movement.

An investigation into faked safety certificates led to the shutdown of two reactors in May, following a similar scandal last year. The shutdowns have come on top of power shortages over the past five years as surging demand outstripped supply.

Today’s draft energy plan maintains the government’s 2008 target for wind, solar and other alternatives to account for 11 percent of energy supply by 2035.

Renewables accounted for 0.7 percent of South Korea’s total energy supply in 2011, the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to an OECD report published this year. The average was 8.2 percent.

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