IEA report: Nuclear power is ‘logical’ for Korea

26 November 2012

A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes South Korea’s nuclear power policy and ‘logical,’ but warns of the importance of independent regulation and international cooperation.

Nuclear power remains a pillar of Korea’s energy policy, providing some 30% of its electricity needs, the IEA said in a statement, 23 November. Korea currently has five reactors under construction, and six more have been announced.

“Given the growing demand for energy and Korea’s lack of indigenous energy resources, this is a logical policy,” the Executive Director Van der Hoeven said.

“Nonetheless, recent incidents at Korean nuclear facilities should serve as a timely reminder to the government that the nuclear regulatory authority must maintain an enhanced profile, be well-resourced and able to take independent decisions,” she added.

Two incidents this year have shaken confidence in Korean safety culture. In February, a safety-related incident occurred at Korea’s oldest nuclear power station Kori 1, when during a maintenance shutdown a worker who had not been following proper procedure caused a 12-minute station black out. The manager of the reactor decided to conceal this, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) of the technical emergency situation.

Also, earlier this November South Korean regulators revealed that they are investigating how non-safety-critical parts were apparently supplied to five of the country's nuclear power plants using forged quality control certificates

“Korea must continue to enhance its participation in international discussions and sharing of experiences post Fukushima, given the expected improvements of safety and regulation being considered in many countries,” Van der Hoeven said.

Overall the IEA’s in-depth review of Korea’s energy policies applauds the country’s long-term commitment to green growth and achieving a low-carbon future. However, the report also sounded notes of caution regarding some elements, such as the long-term vision for electricity and natural gas markets.

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