Moon Jae-in, second from right, a candidate running for the April 11 National Assembly elections on the main opposition Democratic United Party’s ticket, listens to a merchant during a rally in a traditional market in his constituency of Sasang in Busan, Tuesday. Moon, one of the strongest presidential contenders of his party, will vie for a parliamentary seat with Son Su-jo, the youngest contender of the ruling Saenuri Party. / Yonhap
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) decided to oppose the additional construction of nuclear reactors Tuesday in a move to counter the government’s energy policy.
In its seven-point vision for science and technology, the DUP’s policy committee clarified its opposition to the plan to build new reactors or renovate existing ones to provide electricity.
Instead, the liberal party said it would push for alternative renewable energy to replace fossil fuel and nuclear energy.
It went on to say it would rewrite the roadmap for the nation’s energy strategy, if it takes power in the December presidential election. It also plans to revive the now defunct ministry of science and technology.
With the announcement, the liberal party is attempting to tackle the Lee Myung-bak administration’s nuclear push.
The government plans to build 14 more nuclear reactors by 2024 so nuclear energy will account for 58 percent of electricity production by 2030.
Currently, 21 reactors provide nearly 40 percent of electricity nationwide.
Since Korea won a bid to build four nuclear reactors in Abu Dhabi in 2009, President Lee has pushed for exporting the nation’s nuclear energy technology. The so-called nuclear renaissance, referring to the global push for nuclear energy created a favorable environment for the nation’s drive to export its technology at that time.
An increasing number of nations have opted for nuclear reactors to meet rising domestic demand for electricity as it is cheap and clean and emits no carbon dioxide.
But the nuclear push showed signs of losing steam, after Japan’s northeastern province was battered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami last March. This also created a prolonged radiation fear after a meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors that were damaged in the natural disaster.
A backlash against nuclear power plants followed in the neighboring country and this has had some effect here.
Environmentalists and some civic group activists joined the campaign to boycott the nation’s plan to build more nuclear reactors.
By announcing its anti-nuclear reactor pledge, the DUP seeks to curry favor with voters.
The President has shown no signs of backing off from his stalwart support for nuclear energy.
During a news conference in February, Lee said each household would need to pay an extra $785 in utility costs every year if the nation drops the plan to build nuclear reactors.
He urged the main opposition party to stop politicizing the plan closely linked to the national interest.
Meanwhile, DUP Chairwoman Han Myeong-sook said Tuesday the main opposition party will push for the adoption of regulatory measures for oil refiners, such as floating oil taxes.
In a radio address aired by KBS, Han said if the measure is adopted, lower-income families will benefit.
She alleged the ruling Saenuri Party is for the top 1 percent of privileged citizens, whereas the DUP is for the remaining 99 percent.
Han said the 99 percent of citizens live with what she called “five fears.” They are increasing food prices, oil costs, housing woes, tuition fees and household debt.
The democracy fighter-turned-party leader said the DUP is there for those who are suffering, vowing her party will tackle these policy challenges if it wins the April 11 National Assembly elections.
Han described mobile phone rates as one of the burdens that working-class families shoulder.
The average household pays nearly 110,000 won ($100) every month in mobile phone bills.