South Korean President Pledges Nuclear Phase Out

The environment advocacy group Greenpeace beams a message reading

"We will dump our atomic-centric power supply and open the door to the post-nuclear era", Mr Moon said, in a speech marking the decommissioning of the country's first nuclear reactor, the Kori-1, in Busan, some 300km south-east of Seoul.

Our Kim In-kyung has more.

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to phase out the country's dependence on nuclear power, warning of "unimaginable consequences" from a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Decommissioning of Kori No.1 will be carried out by South Korea companies using local technology and is expected to cost 644 billion won ($570 million) and take 15-and-a-half years, the energy ministry said in a statement.

As an alternative, South Korea will raise operating rates for less-polluting LNG power plants, which accounts for 21% of power generation. President Moon pledged that his administration will proactively cultivate green and sustainable energy like solar and offshore wind power, and establish an energy ecosystem suitable for the fourth industrial revolution.

Moon did not pledge to close down now operating plants, but said his government would work in that direction, canceling all plans for new domestic nuclear power plants and for any extended license applications.

Moon on Monday also vowed to decommission "as soon as possible" another aged atomic plant in the southeast, whose original 30-year lifespan had been extended by another decade to 2022.

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Moon's speech was made at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country's oldest nuclear power plant, Kori 1, almost 40 years after it went online.

Moon said he will soon reach a consensus on the Shin Kori No 5 and Shin Kori No 6 reactors after fully considering their construction costs, safety and the potential costs of paying compensation.

Concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants due to earthquakes was one reason for the phase-out policy, Moon said.

Numerous reactors are located near residential areas along the country's southeast coast. The Gyeongju natural disaster that struck South Korea in September 2016, which he acknowledged caused no deaths, has shown that Korea "is no longer a safe quake zone". Moon took office on May 10.

He also said the government will build a new research institute in the southeastern region to work on technologies required to dismantle nuclear reactors.

Korea presently operates 25 reactors, including Kori-1, and these provide 23GW of energy, or about a third of the country's electricity demand.

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