By Michael Shellenberger
South Korea is debating whether to replace its nuclear plants, which provide 30 percent of the nation’s electricity, with fossil fuels and renewables.
How much would doing so cost, and what would be the impact on the environment?
In a new Environmental Progress report, the “The High Cost of Fear,” we calculate a minimum impact of $10 billion per year, thousands of avoidable deaths from air pollution, and failure to achieve South Korea’s Paris climate commitments.
I released the report at South Korea’s National Assembly last week to a crush of media attention, including a national nightly TV news segment on one of the nation’s largest networks.
In our report, EP documents how groups like Greenpeace have been increasing their funding for anti-nuclear fear-mongering in South Korea since the 2011 Fukushima accident.
After the press conference, I travelled to southern South Korea to meet with construction managers and workers at two new nuclear reactors where construction was halted earlier this summer by the nation’s new president.
South Korea has reduced the cost of nuclear energy by building the same kind of plant over and over — which gives managers and workers the experience they need to reduce construction time — and by building larger reactors. The new ones are 40 percent larger than the older ones.
Whether South Korea continues its successful nuclear construction program, or sees it grinds to a halt, depends heavily on the ability of pro-nuclear forces to mobilize, from both inside and outside South Korea.
In conjunction with our other efforts in South Korea, EP produced and published a video explaining their proposed nuclear phase-out. A link to the video can be found by clicking the thumbnail.
In Europe, September 3 - 9
Next week, EP and our friends at Energy for Humanity will travel to Germany, Switzerland, and France to investigate their proposed nuclear plant phase-out.
Over the last decade, Germany and France have earned reputations as a global climate leaders, with Germany making an aggressive push into renewables, and France as host of the 2015 Paris Climate talks.
And yet German emissions are higher than they were in 2009, due to replacing nuclear with fossil fuels, while France is considering reducing its reliance on zero-emissions nuclear and increasing its use of natural gas and renewables.
Germany and France will heavily shape future European and even global energy and environmental policies — Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium and other nations may also phase out their nuclear plants — but to date there has been little investigative reporting on the planned shift from nuclear energy to fossil fuels and renewables.
To better understand what is happening in Europe, Environmental Progress (EP) and Energy for Humanity (EfH) are teaming up on a fact-finding mission through Germany, Switzerland, and France.
We will divide up to interview a large range of government and industry officials, ordinary citizens, nuclear plant workers, activists on all sides, sociologists, political scientists, and pollsters.
The trip will begin with a new TEDx talk by me in Berlin on September 3 — “Why I Changed My Mind About Nuclear” — and end in Paris on September 9.
EP will publish a report based on our trip, as well as a series of articles and videos.
Please don’t hesitate to email us tips and suggestions.