South Korea survey backs restarting construction of 2 nuclear reactors

A South Korean man opposing to the construction of nuclear reactors, covers his face with hands after a state commission announced about a public survey result for two stalled nuclear reactors. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2017
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South Korea survey backs restarting construction of 2 nuclear reactors

SEOUL: A South Korean government-organized committee is recommending Seoul resume the stalled construction of two nuclear reactors after an opinion survey found nearly 60 percent of respondents were in favor of building the power plants.
The two projects were halted in late June after the government said it would let South Koreans give their opinions on energy policy direction amid public concern over atomic safety. The suspension was one of President Moon Jae-in’s key campaign pledges to allay public worry over nuclear power.
The suspension was also in line with the new government’s plan to shift away from coal and nuclear power toward greater use of natural gas and renewables to generate electricity.
“Our final public opinion survey showed 59.5 percent of (responding) South Koreans chose to resume the construction,” Kim Ji-hyung, chairman of the committee, told a news conference on Friday. Stability of power supply was cited as a prime reason for the choice in survey responses, the committee said.
“Our recommendation to the government is restarting construction,” Kim said.
The committee conducted four rounds of surveys including phone interviews of 20,006 people, and public discussions involving some 470 citizens over the past three months.
The survey results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.
The two 1,400-megawatt (MW) reactors — Shin Kori No.5 and Shin Kori No.6 — were originally to be built by March 2021 and March 2022, respectively, in the southeastern city of Ulsan.
Completion dates for the two nuclear plants are now set for October 2021 and October 2022, according to state-run nuclear operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power website.
South Korea’s presidential office said on Friday it respected the results of the public opinion survey and would pursue future steps without delay.
Shares of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) rose 5.6 percent following the announcement. KEPCO Engineering & Construction, which is in charge of the nuclear reactors’ design, surged as much as 20 percent, and KEPCO Plant Service & Engineering gained as much as 10 percent.
Building nuclear power stations takes years, sometimes decades, so the decision in favor of the two new reactors will not change South Korea’s immediate fuel demand patterns.
But the surprise vote does impact the long-term outlook for the country’s fuel consumption. The biggest impact will likely fall on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which South Korea is the world’s second-largest buyer.
Should the equivalent of 2,400 MW of natural gas-fired power generation be replaced by these two nuclear power stations that would reduce LNG’s share of South Korea’s power generation mix by about 12 percent.
But while the government will still pursue scaling back nuclear power overall, said Yoo Seung-Hoon, energy policy professor at Seoul National University of Science & Technology, “as these two reactors have a total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, that will leave little room for gas-fired power plants.”


India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

Updated 11 December 2018
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India’s Modi stares at biggest election loss since coming to power

  • Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition
  • Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party could lose power in three key states, four TV networks said on Tuesday, citing votecount leads, potentially handing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014, and months ahead of a general election.
The main opposition Congress party could form governments in the central states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the western state of Rajasthan, all big heartland states that powered Modi to a landslide win in the 2014 general election.
Analysts say a big loss for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party would signify rural dismay and help unite the opposition, despite his high personal popularity in the face of criticism that he did not deliver on promises of jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
“We’ve all voted for Congress this time and our candidate is winning here,” said Bishnu Prasad Jalodia, a wheat grower in Madhya Pradesh, where it appears as if Congress might have to woo smaller parties to keep out Modi’s party.
“BJP ignored us farmers, they ignored those of us at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The elections are also a test for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and face Modi with his most serious challenge yet, in the election that must be held by May.
In Rajasthan, the Congress was leading in 114 of the 199 seats contested, against 81 for the BJP, in the initial round of voting, India Today TV said.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress was ahead in 59 of the 90 seats at stake, with the BJP at 24. In Madhya Pradesh, the most important of the five states that held assembly elections over the past few weeks, Congress was ahead, with 112 of 230 seats. The Hindu nationalist BJP was at 103, the network said.
Three other TV channels also said Congress was leading in the three states, with regional parties leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Poll analysts cautioned that with the counting in preliminary stages, it was still too early to predict the outcome of state races involving millions of voters.
Local issues usually dominate state polls, but politicians are seeing the elections as a pointer to the national vote just months away.
Indian markets recovered some ground after an early fall as the central bank governor’s unexpected resignation the previous day shocked investors.
The rupee currency dropped as much as 1.5 percent to 72.465 per dollar, while bond yields rose 12 basis points to 7.71 percent after the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel.
The broader NSE share index was down 1.3 percent, with investors cautious ahead of the election results.
“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real,” Nomura said in a research note before the results.
“A rout of the BJP on its homeground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”
Gandhi, the fourth generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has sought to build a coalition of regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.
Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate.
“When one and one become eleven, even the mighty can be dethroned,” opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav said of the prospect of growing opposition unity.