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.”


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 21 min 2 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”