South Korea to resume building two new nuclear reactors, but scraps plans for 6 others

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will resume the suspended construction of two new nuclear reactors from midnight, its energy ministry said on Tuesday, but has torn up plans to build six more reactors as Seoul seeks to meet pledges to cut reliance on nuclear power.

The move will restart work on the two reactors that was frozen after President Moon Jae-in came to power in May on a ticket calling for scaling back nuclear power. It comes after results of a survey unveiled last week found a majority of South Koreans actually backed the projects.

The world’s fifth-biggest nuclear energy user currently runs 24 nuclear reactors, generating a third of the country’s total electricity needs.

“Construction work (for the two new nuclear reactors) will begin immediately after midnight,” Paik Un-gyu, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, told a news briefing in the capital.

But in a bid to press on with Moon’s commitment to boost use of natural gas and renewable sources in the nation’s energy mix, the ministry said Seoul will also cancel all plans to construct a further six nuclear reactors. The number of nuclear reactors operating in South Korea will be cut to a net 14 by 2038 it said.

The ministry said it will use alternative fuels such as solar and wind power to replace the six nuclear reactors with a projected combined capacity of 8.8 gigawatts (GW).

Additionally, the Asia’s fourth-largest economy will not allow extending the lifespan of 14 aging nuclear power stations, totaling 12.5 GW of capacity, the statement said.

The energy ministry said it will reflect changes in the country’s long-term energy mix plan, which is expected to be finalised in November.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Additional reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell