Busan Mayor Hur Nam-sik, center, inspects the Kori Unit 1 nuclear reactor near the city in April last year after technical problems led to a temporary halt in operations. Despite increasing scrutiny over safety and sustainability, Korea continues to see nuclear power as a solution for rising energy needs and also as an export item. / Korea Times file
By Kim Tae-gyu
A year ago, following the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, civilian nuclear energy use seemed to be on its last legs after radioactive materials were released into the Japanese ecosystem, leading to worldwide concern.
But the atmosphere seems to have changed in favor of nuclear energy industry, just one year after the massive earthquake and resultant tsunami wrecked Fukushima, and stunned the world.
Korea appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the change as Asia’s No. 4 four economy has chalked up a set of substantial deals with countries, which want to build nuclear power plants to supply their future energy needs.
``Have a look at the United States, which has set nuclear energy as its fallback energy resource of late. The world still favors nuclear energy, which is the cheapest,’’ a Seoul analyst said.
``You can say that you love alternative energy sources in the belief that they are eco-friendly. Yet, you should be realistic as they are very expensive ways of creating energy.’’
It is widely believed that nuclear energy is superior to other types or renewable energy in terms of fuel-efficiency and energy security because the former has lower emissions of greenhouse gases.
Nuclear power plants emit just a small amount of the carbon dioxide of conventional power plants.
The love affair with nuclear energy seemed to have tailed off last year due to the accident in Japan but currently the world appears to have no other option to depend to generate electricity in efficient ways.
``A nuclear power plant emits just 1 percent of the carbon dioxide that a coal-fired power plant does on average,’’ said an official in the domestic nuclear power plant.
``That means that a nuclear power factory emits 7 million tons less carbon dioxide than a thermo-electric power station. Without nuclear plants, global CO2 emission could be 10 times worse than the current level.’’
Turkey opted to establish a pair of nuclear reactors in Sinop, a coastal area of the Eurasian country and is in talks with Korea to build the most cost-efficient facilities.
The United Arab Emirates, which signed a contract with a Korean consortium headed by Korea Electric Power Corp in late 2009 to build four nuclear power plants, hopes to build four more in the near future.