Stalled energy plans raise concerns about supply expansion

2023.09.19 14:01:02 | 2023.09.19 15:30:27

[Courtesy of KHNP]이미지 확대

[Courtesy of KHNP]

South Korea’s electricity demand is expected to surge led by advanced industries but the country’s long-term energy plans are stalled in the National Assembly due to political disputes, leading to concerns that the country may miss the right time to expand power supply.

The National Assembly’s Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee plans to review a proposed amendment to the Special Act on the Management of High-level Radioactive Waste (HLW Act) on Wednesday. The committee had tried to review the bill as many as ten times between November last year and August, but it has been repeatedly rejected by the opposition parties. The bill is back on the table, but it is still unclear whether it will pass.

Observers note that to accommodate the country’s increasing electricity demand, it is inevitable to expand nuclear power operation in the medium to long term as the country cannot rely solely on liquefied natural gas (LNG) power, which is subject to price fluctuations, while reducing coal-fired power generation to achieve carbon neutrality. They note that amending the HLW Act is essential for the expansion of nuclear power.

Whether by extending the operation of existing nuclear power plants or constructing new ones, it is necessary to deal with the spent nuclear fuel generated during nuclear power operation.

Without the passage of the bill to amend the HLW Act, operating nuclear power plants would have to be shut down, as spent nuclear fuel is expected to reach saturation sequentially starting with the Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant in 2030.

In July, the Korean government, while emphasizing the need for a stable electricity supply, indicated that it would incorporate the construction of new nuclear power plants into its 11th Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand. The opposition parties opposed to the HLW Act.

The “Small Modular Reactors (SMR) Support Act,” which contains government support for SMRs, has also been pending in the National Assembly for nearly a year since it was introduced in November last year, raising concerns about losing competitiveness in SMRs and other future energy industries. The “Special Act on Offshore Wind Power” aimed at promoting the spread of offshore wind power, which is considered the next-generation renewable energy, is also being stalled in the National Assembly.

By Song Gwang-sup and Yoon Yeon-hae

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