Now South Korea says ‘NO’ to nuclear power

2017-06-20 12:37

News coming from South Korea is that newly-elected president Moon Jae-in has announced that his government plans to phase out nuclear power there and increase output from renewable energy sources instead citing concerns regarding cost, public safety and environmental effects (McCurry, 2017). In doing so, South Korea joins a growing list of developed countries, such as Germany and Switzerland for example, that have rejected nuclear power. Many South Africans will find this news deeply ironic considering that South Korea is one of the countries that South Africa signed nuclear cooperation agreements with (subsequently set aside) and that state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) is reportedly one of the companies eyeing South Africa’s nuclear deal with a view to submitting a bid once put to tender.

In contrast, the number of developing countries, African countries in particular, that have expressed an interest in nuclear power has grown. Incidentally, KEPCO is closely involved in the development and preparation of many of these countries’ (Kenya for example) nuclear plans. Coming so soon after reports which highlight the dwindling financial fortunes of the US nuclear industry (Polson, 2017), these differences in nuclear policies are likely to raise several questions about the future of nuclear power. It is also difficult not to wonder what this all means or not to question why the politicians and leaders of developing countries are rushing to embrace a technology that is increasingly being rejected by leaders and members of the electorate in developed countries. For instance, do differences reflect long-established practices whereby businesses dump second-rate products and technologies that have been rejected by developed country markets onto African consumers in efforts to ensure that they continue to reap profits therefrom? Are differences a reflection of lax standards in developing countries, as opposed to developed countries, where leaders and decision makers automatically assume that we are prepared to accept more risk in the pursuit of growth and development? Is it a question of lack of information and differential access to information? If so, just what do citizens of developed countries know about nuclear power that we don’t?

Putting the government’s nuclear plans to a referendum is the ideal way to seek answers to these and other related questions and for ordinary citizens to compel elected officials to explain differences in leaders’ nuclear attitudes and support for nuclear power. Crucially, a nuclear referendum also provides citizens the means to express their views on the satisfactoriness of the explanations offered and to act thereon. If you believe ordinary South Africans deserve adequate explanations from policymakers and that we should be given the right to pronounce our views on this important matter, then we invite you to join us in calling upon President Zuma to ‘Give South Africans a referendum on nuclear power NOW!’ by liking/following us on facebook ( and signing the petitions we have posted on our facebook page. #nuclear #nuclearpower #nuclearreferendum #SouthAfrica


McCurry, J. 2017. New South Korean president vows to end use of nuclear power. The Guardian, 19 June 2017.

Date accessed: 19 June 2017

Polson, J. 2017. More Than Half of America's Nuclear Reactors Are Losing Money. Bloomberg News, 15 June 2017.

Date accessed: 15 June 2017

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