SEOUL Nov 23 The International Energy Agency
(IEA) wants South Korea to bring more transparency to its
nuclear power sector and strengthen the independence of
regulators to increase trust in the safety of its plants, the
economy ministry said on Friday.
The agency, which advises industrialized nations and
represents 28 oil importing countries, was due later on Friday
to unveil a report on South Korea's energy policies for the
first time since 2006.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, depends heavily
on oil and gas imports but has 23 nuclear reactors that supply a
third of its power. The country plans to add 11 more by 2024.
Its nuclear sector has been involved in a series of minor
incidents and a scandal over forged certificates for parts used
in what the government insists are non-essential operations -
events that have caused two reactors to be shut.
Concern over nuclear safety in South Korea and worldwide has
also been raised by last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan.
"The IEA suggests that adding reactors is a practical and
efficient policy, and an excellent example to other countries,
considering the situation that S o uth Korea does not have many
alternatives for other energy resources," the ministry statement
"However, the IEA proposes that it is necessary to secure
trust by raising transparency and enhancing regulators'
independence and roles, as safety concerns have heightened since
the Fukushima crisis."
In Japan, only two of 50 commercial reactors are operating.
The timetable for further restarts is unclear as a new nuclear
watchdog tightens safety regulations to restore public
confidence in the sector, lost after the meltdowns at the
Fukushima plant caused by last year's earthquake and tsunami.
The South Korean government has been criticised for a lack
of transparency over safety in its nuclear programme and for the
dual supervisory and promotion roles of its regulators.
South Korea is the world's fifth-largest crude oil importer
and second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer.
Friday's ministry statement also quoted the IEA as saying
more consumers should be given the choice of buying gas at
proper market prices from other sources and not just from
state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), the world's
largest corporate buyer of LNG.
(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Anthony Barker)