Twenty two months ago, March 11, 2011, Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake and tsunami, leading to a cascade of failures at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since then, Japan has only restarted two of a total of 50 nuclear reactors, in spite of growing public dissension, and is moving very cautiously regarding the remaining 48 reactors.
South Korea, it seems, is in the same situation, learning how to balance the supply and demand of electricity in the face of public fears over nuclear power.
South Korea has had its own problems with nuclear power, including a fake parts scandal which shut down two reactors last year. The two reactors have since been restarted, and a couple more are just coming out of maintenance intervals, but “It is an urgent priority to recover people’s trust and the safety of reactors just as it is unavoidable to maintain nuclear at a certain percentage of the total power supply, considering the power supply and demand situation.” — Ministry of Knowledge Economy [MKE], South Korea.
Because public opinion regarding nuclear power remains weak in South Korea, especially since the nuclear disaster in neighboring Japan and local nuclear scandals, MKE has suppressed actual poll results. On the other hand, the public also fears power outages in this winter season, so restarting the two downed reactors seems to have helped out on that front.
In any case, South Korea is looking to expand their nuclear program, from the current 23 reactors, to 34 reactors by 2024. Will this expansion help to balance public fears over nuclear power supply and increasing demand for electricity, or might South Korea be setting itself up for a disaster similar to Fukushima or even Chernobyl?