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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid