Posted on : Jul.21,2017 15:20 KST Modified on : Jul.21,2017 15:20 KST

Construction has been suspended on Shin-Kori nuclear reactors 5 and 6 (by Kim Bong-kyu, staff photographer)

Data refutes claims by conservatives in South Korea that nuclear phaseout will lead to spike in energy prices

Official reports by the governments of the US and UK project that nuclear power will actually become about 50% more expensive to generate than it is now, and more expensive than renewable energy by the early to mid-2020s, and that the unit cost for nuclear power will even become more expensive than that of liquefied natural gas (LNG). These projections provide evidence that directly rebuts the argument recently made by opposition political parties and by the nuclear power industry that the nuclear phaseout in South Korea and the expansion of new and renewable energy will lead to a surge in the price of electricity. These figures appear in a report titled “Examples of Selecting Generation Prices in Major Countries” that Lee Yong-deuk, a lawmaker with the Minjoo Party, received from the National Assembly Budget Office on July 20. The report cites figures for the power generation cost of various sources of power that were released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) in Feb. 2017, which predicted that, in 2022, generating 1MW of electricity will cost US$99.10 in the latest nuclear reactors it (excluding tax deductions), US$123.20 in coal plants (equipped with carbon-capture devices), US$66.80 for solar energy and US$52.20 for onshore wind turbines. Even combined-cycle power plants using natural gas will cost US$82.40 per 1MW, making them cheaper than the unit cost of nuclear power, the EIA predicted. In estimates of power generation cost released last year, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also said that generating 1MW of power in 2025 would cost 95 pounds at nuclear plants and 131 pounds at coal plants, but 63 pounds at large-scale solar farms and 61 pounds at onshore wind farms. Combined-cycle power using natural gas was projected to cost 82 pounds, making it lower once again than the cost of generating nuclear power. In short, official documents from the US and UK governments provide evidence to counter the argument that replacing nuclear power with new and renewable energy or with natural gas will entail huge costs and will necessitate a major increase in the price of electricity. With the goal of comparing the relative cost of generating power with different power sources, the two countries settled on the ”levelized cost of energy” method for projecting generation costs. This method involves dividing the total cost required during the lifetime of a given energy-generating asset (including its design, construction, operations, funding and decommissioning) by the total amount of electricity it generates. Recently, the Korean Nuclear Society, the nuclear industry and opposition parties have claimed again and again that, if the government’s policy of phasing out nuclear power is implemented, the cost of generating electricity would skyrocket, causing electricity prices to rise between 18% on the low end and 79% on the high end. The government intends to increase the share of new and renewable energy in the energy mix to 20% by 2013 from its current level of 6.7% (or 1.48%, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency is 1.48% that excludes waste-to-energy). But the projections by the US and UK governments clearly suggest that there is a low likelihood of electricity prices soaring and that instead electricity prices are likely to decrease after nuclear power and coal are phased out. “The trends over the past two or three decades show that the unit cost of nuclear power continues to rise when the safety and environmental costs of nuclear power are included, while the technological level of new and renewable energy improves every day. As a consequence, it’s an unshakeable fact that the cost of nuclear power is rising and the cost of new and renewable energy is falling, in terms of the levelized cost of energy,” said Paik Un-kyu, South Korea’s newly appointed Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, during his confirmation hearing on July 19. This raises the question of whether these American and British unit-cost projections are applicable to South Korea as well. “The unit-cost of nuclear power continues to rise around the world, following the inclusion of social costs, including the cost of decommissioning nuclear reactors,” said Kim Jong-dal, a professor at the department of economics and trade at Kyungpook National University. “Even if the cost of electricity increases because of a step-by-step nuclear phaseout, it’s estimated to be 6,000 won [about US$5] at the most. As new and renewable energy replaces nuclear power, we could reach a point in the future when domestic energy costs are actually lower than they are now.” By Cho Kye-wan, staff reporter Please direct questions or comments to [] original

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