Environment ministry under fire for reversing taxonomy decisionNuclear energy has been included in the country's green taxonomy, also known as K-taxonomy, a classification system establishing a list of economic activities that contribute to environmental goals. The Ministry of Environment Tuesday announced that it is officially declaring nuclear power generation as an "eco-friendly economic activity" in its first draft of the green taxonomy framework.
The announcement is a complete reversal from the stance of the previous administration, which focused on phasing out nuclear energy during its five-year tenure. The reversal has been anticipated since the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has emphasized the value of nuclear energy as a means of achieving carbon neutrality and securing energy security.
The European Parliament voted in favor of including nuclear power in its taxonomy in July, so the ministry's latest decision is a step in the same direction.Including nuclear energy in the green taxonomy will certainly help nurse the damaged domestic nuclear industry back to health by encouraging businesses to invest in new technologies.
The decision will also create a favorable environment for Korean builders of nuclear power plants to win nuclear reactor projects in the Czech Republic and Poland next year.However, controversy is inevitable, considering that environmentalists will raise concerns about the safety of nuclear power and nuclear waste.
The environment ministry attached conditions, stating that nuclear plants will have to use accident tolerant fuels (ATFs), fuels with improved performance, after 2031, and that detailed plans on the safe storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste must be provided. But there is a long way to go before ATFs are commercially available, and finding places to store high-level radioactive waste will be even more difficult.
With nuclear power on the K-taxonomy list, the environment ministry will face harsh criticism for reversing its decision without careful consultation. Public hearings will be held on the issue belatedly in October, and the ministry says the final version will be unveiled by the end of the year.
The ministry should do whatever it can to win the support of the broader populace while sticking to the schedule.