Outgoing president Moon Jae-in’s policy had been to retire the country’s 24 reactors, which supply about 30% of its electricity generation, and refrain from building new ones.
By contrast, The Korea Herald reported that Mr Yoon is bullish on the need for South Korea to embrace the nuclear option. During his campaign, he wrote on his Facebook page: “I will recover the ecosystem of nuclear power generation and advance safe nuclear technologies so that they can become a core engine to drive the country.” He added: “The government said it will reduce the portion of nuclear power to 7% by 2050 and will import electricity from China and Russia when there is a shortage. The plan is unfeasible even if solar panels were installed on our entire soil.”
He said building nuclear power plants was a global trend, and essential to the reduction of carbon and energy security, noting that the EU had recently classified nuclear power as green energy in its sustainable finance taxonomy.
As the first step, the new government is expected to resume the suspended construction of the Shin-Hanul-3 and -4 nuclear plants, 330km from Seoul in the southeast of the country. Work on the two plants has been halted since 2017 under the nuclear phaseout policy.
Mr Yoon has also pledged to operate the country’s present nuclear fleet as long as possible, maintaining nuclear’s share of the energy mix at 30%.
He also signalled renewed investment in research into small modular reactors, and announced a target of selling at least 10 nuclear power plants to foreign buyers by 2030, thereby creating 100,000 jobs.
South Korea scored a notable success in Abu Dhabi with its Barakah nuclear power station, which has four APR-1400 reactors designed by Korea Electric Power Corporation. When fully operational, the facility will supply a quarter of the United Arab Emirates’ electricity demand.
Seoul is also involved in tenders for other major nuclear projects, including plans for new build in the Czech Republic and Poland.