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366. Nuclear Energy, Is It Really New and Clear?

Jeong, Ye-eun 기자2017.05.12 00:15:07

           Nuclear energy has been utilized around the world, but the dangerous risks involved have come to light after nuclear accidents such as those in Fukushima and Chernobyl. The two regions are still radioactively contaminated, and there have been many nuclear accidents in other countries as well. In the case of Korea, the danger is huge because the density of nuclear power plants is the highest in the world. Therefore, it seems reasonable to think about the future and the safety of nuclear energy in Korea by looking at the current conditions after the previous nuclear accidents in other countries.


Fukushima, Japan


Since the nuclear generating station in Fukushima exploded on March 11, 2013, the Japanese government has tried to decontaminate the regions exposed to the radioactivity. One of the regions was the village named Iitate. At the time of the explosion, a radioactive cloud passed through this village, and about 6,000 residents of the village were affected. According to the research by Greenpeace, in spite of the efforts at decontamination, the radioactive level is over 0.231μSv in more than 96% of this region, which is similar to taking a chest X-ray every week.

Furthermore, the health of the residents has deteriorated a lot. In the Korea-Japan Symposium held on January 18, 2017, the Japanese doctors declared that the incidence of various diseases including leukemia, brain hemorrhage, and myocardium had increased sharply as well as fetal death rate and infant mortality. Notwithstanding, the Japanese government plans to lift the evacuation order at the end of March. If the evacuation order is lifted, the refugees who are financially embarrassed cannot help but return to the polluted region, because they can no longer get the housing assistance and subsidies from the government.


Chernobyl, Soviet Union (Now Ukraine)


Almost 31 years have passed since the nuclear accident happened in Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. The accident has been said to be one of the worst disasters in the 20th century. Now, the construction of a massive dome that covers the whole area of the exploded generating station has been completed, after more than 20 years. The dome, named NSC, is expected to stop the leaking of radioactive substances over the next 100 years, and the Ukrainian government plans to dismantle the broken generating station this year.

However, there still seems to be a lot of things to be solved. The radioactively contaminated region accounts for nearly 2,600 km², including Ukraine itself and other adjacent countries such as Russia and Belarus. Scientists have said that it would take about 3,000 years for these areas to be safe. More than 300,000 people were evacuated, but there are hundreds of people who still live in the places exposed to radioactivity. To make matters worse, the government has stopped investigating the polluted area near Chernobyl and providing the residents with detoxicant since 2012 because of financial difficulties.


Korea and New Energy Trends


Even though these accidents happened a long time ago, the victims have been suffering from the disastrous results which are still going on. Starting from this lesson, nowadays, energy development around the world has been changing to that of utilizing renewable energy instead of nuclear energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) anticipates that renewable energy will account for up to 28% of the generating units in 2040 worldwide, which is the largest percentage of all other energies. There are many European countries where this innovation has already started. For instance, Germany generates more than 2,000 gigawatts of electricity from solar energy annually. Portugal succeeded in producing electricity for 107 hours only with renewable energy in 2016. Even in France, where nuclear energy once took quite a large portion of energy production, renewable energy now accounts for 17.3% with the government trying to reduce reliance on nuclear energy.

However, Korea is going counter to the current trend of the world, planning to extend the proportion of nuclear facilities from 29.9% to 39.7% by 2029 and reducing the investment in renewable energy. Furthermore, proceeding with the extension plan, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) has not prepared any plans to protect residents if nuclear accidents happen. In addition, research on the possibility of earthquakes in the oceans has not been conducted. Considering that most of the generating stations are constructed near the oceans in order to supply cooling water, this is a serious lack of safety policy. Although there have been heated arguments as to whether constructing additional nuclear power plants should proceed or not, the NSSC permitted the construction without considering those arguments and preparing safety measurements.


The countries which operate nuclear power plants are always exposed to the possibility of nuclear accidents such as those in Fukushima and Chernobyl, and so is Korea. In particular, safety plans regarding nuclear energy development need to be prepared. In addition, even though it would be difficult to immediately change the way of generating energy, there is a need to thoroughly examine the current conditions of energy development in Korea for the sake of both safety and the environment.

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