Government official ‘nuclear power plant is eco-friendly’… Included in the amendment to the green classification system

The government has officially announced that nuclear power generation will be included in ‘eco-friendly economic activities’.

The development of nuclear power plant technologies such as small modular reactors (SMR) and accident-resistant fuel (ATF) was defined as ‘a truly eco-friendly economic activity’, and the construction and operation of nuclear power plants was classified as ‘not a truly eco-friendly but transitional economic activity for carbon neutrality’.

Shinwolseong Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2. Provided by Wolseong Nuclear Power Headquarters

On the 20th, the Ministry of Environment announced the amendment of the green classification system (Green Taxonomy) that includes nuclear power plants.

Since the current government has emphasized nuclear power as a means of achieving carbon neutrality and securing energy security, ‘inclusion of nuclear power in the green classification system’ has been considered a ‘procedure’.

Although the European Union (EU) has recently imposed strict conditions, including nuclear power plants in the green classification system has strengthened the voice of Korea to include nuclear power plants.

However, nuclear power plants have problems that are far from being resolved, such as ‘safety’ and ‘waste’, so the controversy over the inclusion of the green classification system is expected to continue.

The green classification system is a national standard that stipulates which economic activities are eco-friendly. It is particularly important as it is a criterion for selecting green investment targets. For example, banks currently participating in the pilot project are providing low-interest loans to economic activities included in the green classification system.

◇ Nuclear power plants included in ‘eco-friendly’… Instead, specify conditions such as ‘Secure a waste disposal site’

According to the revised green classification system released on the same day, ‘SMR, next-generation nuclear power plant that produces and supplies electricity while minimizing radioactive waste, ATF, radioactive waste management, ultra-small nuclear power plants for space and marine use, improvement of nuclear power plant safety and facility reliability, etc. Activities related to research, development, and demonstration of core technologies for

Cho Hyun-su, head of the Green Transition Policy Division of the Ministry of Environment on the morning of the 20th at the Sejong Government Complex in Sejong City, to include nuclear power generation in the Korean green classification system, consisting of: Announcing the draft for the economic activity section. yunhap news

The domestic green classification system is divided into green sector and conversion sector.

The green sector is ‘a true green economic activity that contributes to carbon neutrality and environmental improvement’.

‘Activities to build and operate facilities that use nuclear power to produce and supply electricity or heat’ (new construction of nuclear power plants) and ‘activities to remodel facilities for the purpose of continuing operation of nuclear power plants whose design life has expired’ (continuous operation of nuclear power plants) entered the conversion section.

The transition sector regulation is ‘not a true green economy activity, but an activity necessary for a transitional period in order to become carbon neutral’.

In the case of new construction and continuous operation of nuclear power plants, only ‘facilities permitted for construction and continuous operation by 2045’ are recognized as activities included in the green classification system.

Similar to the EU, there are accreditation conditions.

In the case of new construction, ‘existence of detailed documented plans for safe storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste and enactment of laws to guarantee implementation of the plan’, ‘Possession of intermediate and low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities’, ‘Application of the latest technical standards and use of ATF’ , ‘GHG emissions of less than 100g of carbon dioxide equivalent when producing 1kWh (kilowatt hour) of energy’ and ‘Retaining radioactive waste management fund and nuclear power plant decommissioning costs’ must be met.

The conditions for continued operation are the same as for new construction, except that it is stipulated that ‘ATF will be used from January 1, 2031’ in relation to the ATF.

Compared to the EU, there is ample time to secure a high-level radioactive waste disposal facility and use the ATF. The EU has placed conditions on ‘establish a detailed documented plan for operation of high-level radioactive waste disposal facilities by 2050’ and ‘use of ATF from 2025’.

Regarding the failure to specify the timing of securing a high-level radioactive waste disposal facility, the Ministry of Environment said, “This is because there is a ‘second basic plan for high-level radioactive waste management’ that the government confirmed in December last year.” We made sure to secure disposal facilities in a timely manner, including the condition.”

The second basic plan for high-level radioactive waste management includes the policy of ‘start the site selection process, secure an intermediate storage facility within 20 years, and establish a permanent disposal facility within 37 years’. If the plan goes ahead, even if the site selection starts this year, operation will start in 2060.

Regarding the ATF, he explained, “The earliest time for commercialization in Korea is 2031.” ATF has not yet been commercialized worldwide, but the United States, which is considered the most advanced, is expected to be commercialized only in 2026.

◇ “We cannot change the policy to include nuclear power plants”… criticism of the government

The controversy is expected to grow again as the government announces the amendment to the green classification system that includes nuclear power plants.

Environmental groups argue that the meaning of the green classification system to prevent ‘green washing’ (an act of disguising as eco-friendly and not eco-friendly) is completely lost if nuclear power plants that produce hazardous and untreatable wastes, such as radioactive waste, are included.

When the previous Moon Jae-in government announced the green classification system last year, it is also criticized that the new government introduced the amendment without any public discussion after promising that it would “review whether to include nuclear power plants through social consensus.”

The Ministry of Environment said that the revised bill announced this time is a ‘draft’ and will prepare a final draft by collecting opinions from all walks of life.

However, the Ministry of Environment said in a briefing on the same day that it cannot change the policy of ‘include nuclear power plants in the green classification system’.

Finally, some point out that the green classification system, which the Ministry of Environment said in December last year, was ‘made by collecting opinions from all walks of life’, looking at the change in the government after 9 months.

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