South Korea a 'nuclear success story'

27 September 2017

South Korea's economic growth is thanks in part to nuclear energy, and the innovative use of radiation techniques will support sustainable development, said the country's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Lee Jin-gyu. Yet the incoming government wants to focus only on reducing the possibility of an accident, he added.

Addressing the IAEA's 61st General Conference on 19 September, Lee said: "Nuclear energy has fuelled Korea's economic growth over the past four decades. That period has realised in Korea not only a civic self reliance in nuclear technology but also contributed to the international community by sharing Korean technologies. All those achievements made Korea recognised as a unique nuclear success story."


Barakah 1 dome (Enec) 460x309
Barakah 1 in the UAE is the Korean nuclear industry's first export (Image: Enec)


The country has 24 power reactors built since the early 1980s which provide about one-third of its electricity and operate with a good safety record. But public opinion towards nuclear power has soured in Korea since the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan and a September 2016 earthquake which surprised geologists. Now, Lee said, "Korea and other countries are facing grave challenges of re-enforcing nuclear safety. As such, the nuclear policy of our new government puts foremost the safety of our citizens."

President Moon Jae-in, who took office on an anti-nuclear platform in May, has initiated a public debate on nuclear. Until it concludes, the government's policy, Lee said, focuses on reinforcing safety at nuclear power plants; and refuelling, decommissioning and managing used fuel.

He added: "With regards to strengthening the safety of nuclear power plants, based on the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the principles of the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety, the Korean government is currently promoting research and development and revising regulations to prevent accidents."

Nevertheless, nuclear and radiation techniques underpin advances in many other areas of science, technology and manufacturing and Korea does not want to forgo those.

"Nuclear energy has constantly driven innovation," Lee said. "The convergence of radiation technology with other fields and industries has provided solutions to our common challenges. The Republic of Korea highly appreciates the IAEA's efforts for technical cooperation to achieve sustainable development goals. In this regard Korea will continue to participate in the IAEA's activities in developing countries.

"Korea is promoting the development and use of nuclear medicine technology and has further plans to pursue innovation and the convergence of nuclear energy with other fields, such as aerospace, marine and polar science with a conviction that an increase in the applications of radiation technology will bring sustainable change and benefits to humanity."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News