Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear industry unpopular in South Korea

thumbs-downAbout 11,000 county residents participated in the referendum. Of them, nearly 92 percent voted against a nuclear power plant.
flag-S-KoreaBitter Debate Over Nuclear Power Simmers in Rural South Korea, NYT By  JAN. 5, 2016“……… in 2010, the 399 mostly older people who made up the population of three villages agreed to give up their land and their centuries-old way of life to make room for something few other places wanted: a nuclear power plant.

That act plunged the surrounding Yeongdeok County into a bitter debate over whether the plant would be a savior or a death knell. The clash also revealed the depth of despair in South Korea’s increasingly empty rural communities, as well as growing misgivings about the country’s heavy dependence on nuclear power…….

villagers like Shin Wang-ki, 56, who grows pears, apples and peaches and believed that a plant would mean the end to a longstanding and cherished way of life.

“No way! Who’s going to buy fruits or crabs from an area near a nuclear power plant?” he said. “I inherited a clean land from my ancestors and want to leave it untainted for my children.”……..

In 2012, South Korea selected Yeongdeok and Samcheok, a coastal city to the north, as sites for new reactors.

Yet by then, skepticism — and anxiety — was spreading. First came the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. Then came another shock: Reports that emerged after a series of scandals revealed that nuclear power plants across South Korea had been using parts whose safety test results were faked.

Last year, a new mayor in Samcheok called a referendum in which residents voted against the decision made under the previous mayor. When the mayor of Yeongdeok refused to do likewise, residents opposed to the plant began organizing and outside activists poured in. They called a referendum on their own in November.

The government and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company, the country’s operator of nuclear power plants, urged residents not to take part in the referendum, which they called illegal because a state project was not subject to a county-level plebiscite. They also accused the outsiders of bringing antinuclear activism here to impede an important national project. Antinuclear villagers went on hunger strikes, accusing Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power executives of bribing older villagers with watermelons and other gifts.

“People yelled at each other,” said Kwon Tae-hwan, who runs a local Internet news site. “They waged a war of banners, every single back alley strung with rival placards.”

About 11,000 county residents participated in the referendum. Of them, nearly 92 percent voted against a nuclear power plant.

Antinuclear activists claimed victory, while the government dismissed the result and reconfirmed its plan to build a plant here.The civil disobedience in Yeongdeok represented only one of the many challenges South Korea’s nuclear power industry faced, problems it never had to confront when the first reactor went into operation in 1978 under an authoritarian government. In June, a government committee warned that beginning in 2019, old plants would run out of storage space for high-level radioactive wastes. The country urgently needed to build a new, central repository for such wastes, it said.

But the government could not even start looking. Residents of Miryang, a village in the southeast, have recently staged prolonged protests, including a self-immolation, to oppose a far smaller potential hazard: high-voltage transmission towers to carry electricity from a distant nuclear plant…….Residents on both sides of the nuclear question are waiting for parliamentary elections in April, when candidates from Yeongdeok will be asked to take sides.

“Among people here, what the government said used to be the law and truth,” said Kim Eok-nam, 47, who believed his dream of marketing organic farm produce would evaporate with the arrival of a nuclear plant. “But over this nuclear power project, we will show we are no rural pushover.”

January 6, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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