News / Asia

Stung by Scandal, S. Korea Weighs Costs of Curbing Nuclear Power

FILE - An employee of the Korea Power Exchange, a state company to check the country's flow of electricity, watches a huge screen monitoring power supply during power outages in Seoul, September 15, 2011.
FILE - An employee of the Korea Power Exchange, a state company to check the country's flow of electricity, watches a huge screen monitoring power supply during power outages in Seoul, September 15, 2011.
Reuters
It started with a few bogus safety certificates for cables shutting a handful of South Korean nuclear reactors. Now, the scandal has snowballed, with 100 people indicted and Seoul under pressure to rethink its reliance on nuclear power.
 
A shift away from nuclear, which generates a third of South Korea's electricity, could cost tens of billions of dollars a year by boosting imports of liquefied natural gas, oil or coal.
 
Although helping calm safety concerns, it would also push the government into a politically sensitive debate over whether state utilities could pass on sharply higher power bills to households and companies.
 
Gas, which makes up half of South Korea's energy bill while accounting for only a fifth of its power, would likely be the main substitute for nuclear, as it is considered cleaner than coal and plants can be built more easily near cities.
 
“If the proportion of nuclear power is cut, other fuel-based power generation has to be raised. If we use LNG, the cost will definitely go up,” said Hwang Woo-hyun, vice president of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO).
 
KEPCO owns Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd, which operates the county's nuclear reactors, and also has a quarter stake in Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), the world's largest corporate buyer of LNG.
 
The extra cost to Asia's fourth-largest economy of importing more LNG to replace nuclear could be approaching $20 billion per year by 2035, according to Reuters calculations based on government projections for power capacity growth and South Korea's average LNG prices for last year.
 
South Korea could need as much as 25 million extra tons by 2035 if a proposal to reduce nuclear's share of its energy mix is drafted into power policy.
 
The cost projection could be conservative if rising demand from South Korea fuels further price rises in LNG. Top LNG importer Japan is also buying more gas than ever as it compensates for its own nuclear shutdown in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
 
Offline, Reduction Recommended
 
Three of South Korea's 23 reactors are offline due to the fake safety certificates, while another will be shut on Oct. 30 to examine welding quality related to the safety of a steam generator.
 
Two others are also out for regular maintenance and a sixth one is shut, awaiting an extension of its 30-year life span. Of six reactors under construction, three have been delayed from start-up, also because of safety issues.
 
Authorities have indicted 100 people, including a former top state utility official, for corruption after the discovery of the fake safety certificates.
 
The chaos in the industry comes as a government working group recommended on Oct. 13 a cut in South Korea's reliance on nuclear power, pointing to a drop in public confidence in safety that has been exacerbated by Japan's Fukushima disaster.
 
The study recommended nuclear power capacity be kept between 22 and 29 percent of the total by 2035, well below existing plans to grow the sector to 41 percent in less than 20 years.
 
The government will hold public hearings to decide whether to back the recommendation before finalizing its energy policy in December.
 
As of 2012, nuclear accounted for 26 percent of total generating capacity, according to energy ministry data, though it typically accounts for about a third of power generation, while only making up about 3-4 percent of energy costs.
 
Coal made up about 31 percent and LNG 26 percent of the country's total power generation capacity last year.
 
Fuel costs for power at the end of August, were 48 won ($0.05) per kilowatt-hour (kwh) for nuclear, 64 won/kwh for coal, 166 won/kwh for LNG and 226 won/kwh for oil, according to KEPCO.
 
Cost Dilemma
 
Gas demand by South Korea has already been rising to make up for its nuclear power shortfall.
 
South Korea's LNG imports rose 12 percent from a year ago to 29.5 million tons in the first nine months of this year. Last year it imported 36.3 million tons of LNG.
 
Shares of KOGAS hit their highest in more than five months at 66,700 won on Oct. 16, reflecting expectations of higher gas demand if the recommendation for less nuclear power is taken up.
 
Plugging the nuclear shortfall with imports of fossil fuels could raise local electricity fares up to five-fold by 2030, according to local media.
 
The energy ministry has ruled out large electricity tariff hikes, however, saying low-cost nuclear generation will continue to contribute a large portion of total power supply even with a drop in its share of the capacity mix.
 
South Korea's utilities, meanwhile, are banking on consumers using less electricity if prices rise and on what they hope will be cheaper North American gas supplies later this decade.
 
A KEPCO official who asked not to be identified said the firm expected to receive cheap shale gas from 2017.
 
Before then, however, fuel costs could rise if nuclear power is replaced with higher cost fuels like gas, he said.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs