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.”


EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

Updated 12 min 46 sec ago
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EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

SALZBURG: Austria urged its European Union partners Thursday to enter talks with Egypt to help stem the flow of migrants entering Europe from Africa, amid deep divisions over how to manage the challenge.
Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and EU Council President Donald Tusk visited Cairo over the weekend for talks with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, a top army general who took office in 2014. Both men have praised him for stopping people from leaving its coast bound for Europe.
“Egypt has proven that it can be efficient,” Kurz told reporters at an EU summit in Salzburg, Austria. “Since 2016, it has prevented ships sailing from Egypt to Europe or, when they have sailed, it has taken them back.”
Kurz said Egypt is “now prepared possibly to deepen cooperation with us in talks. We should use that.” He also said EU leaders support the idea of entering into talks with other North African countries as well.
In dealing with the migrants crisis of the past few years, the EU has been creative, willing to part with billions to secure deals around the Mediterranean with leaders with autocratic leanings.
The bloc lauds the deal it struck with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for slowing migrant arrivals to a trickle over the last two years, in exchange for up to 6 billion euros ($7 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees there and other incentives.
Italy alone paid billions to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to stop African people from leaving his country’s shores. Thousands were transported from Libya’s coast to its southern border.
Beyond keeping tight control over Egypt’s coastline, El-Sisi could have important influence with the military and militias in lawless, neighboring Libya; a main departure point for migrants trying to enter Europe through Italy. Already, Tusk is lobbying to hold an EU-Arab League summit in Cairo in February.
The call comes after a summer in which Italy’s anti-migrant government closed its ports to NGO ships, and even its own coast guard, carrying people rescued at sea. Hundreds of migrants spent unnecessary days at sea or aboard boats while EU countries bickered over who should take them.
Looking for help from El-Sisi is a new sign of the EU’s determination to outsource the migrant challenge, even though arrival numbers are barely a trickle compared to 2015, when well over a million people entered Europe, mostly fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.
EU countries are studying plans to create “disembarkation platforms” in northern African countries, where people rescued at sea could be dropped off for screening. No African country has expressed interest in hosting one so far.
The EU’s inability to balance responsibility for the migrants and share the burden of hosting them has been a vote-winner for far-right parties across the 28-nation bloc.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Africa is not keen at the moment.
“If we take the approach of: ‘we don’t take them, you take them,’ that doesn’t fly,” she said. “But this doesn’t mean that North African countries would not be ready to cooperate with us, and with the UN, to have a reasonable, sustainable solution.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who supports talks with North Africa, believes countries like Italy, Greece and Spain must take responsibility for migrant arrivals, but he also underlines the importance of European solidarity.
“There are rules and they have to be respected. We have to protect our citizens but we must do it while respecting our values. Also, responsibilities cannot be upheld if there is no solidarity,” he said.
Macron and the leaders of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands repeated a similar joint line on the balance between responsibilities and solidarity after talks earlier this month. However, they appeared to suggest that solidarity is best expressed by giving European money to partners who need help. No leader offered to share the refugee burden.
One idea raised in Salzburg has been for countries to pay money to Italy or Greece to take care of migrants themselves.
Asked how much a migrant was worth, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said, in an indignant tone: “We are not at the market. We are speaking about humans. We are not speaking about carpets or goods.”
He said that if Europe starts “to ask: ‘how much is the price of an immigrant?’ it’s a shame for all of us.”