South Korean public backs nuclear

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The suspension was one of the newly elected President Moon Jae-in's key campaign pledges in efforts to allay public concerns over safety. The president had been eager to rebalance the country's energy needs away from nuclear power and polluting fossil fuels to renewables and natural gas. Experts say that the public survey was significant regardless of its results, in that it reaffirmed what citizens want in the long run, which is to eventually phase out nuclear energy.

South Korea on Friday chose to push ahead with the construction of two new nuclear reactors after months of heated debate over whether the country should start weaning itself off atomic energy.

"Our recommendation to the government is restarting construction", said Kim Ji-hyung, chairman of a government-organised committee to study the nuclear projects. Stability of power supply was cited as a prime reason for the choice in survey responses, the committee said.

A state commission that surveyed a panel of 471 citizens said a little over half of them still wanted South Korea to rely less on nuclear energy, even after South Korea resumes constructing the unfinished Shin Kori-5 and Shin Kori-6 reactors.

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But the survey's result does not reflect overriding trust on the nuclear industry. The new completion date, respective of the government's moratorium on construction is now set for October 2021 and October 2022.

KEPCO Engineering & Construction, in charge of the reactors' design, lost 1.2 percent after surging as much as 20 percent.

While a majority of citizens on the panel sided with building for the reactors, they also opined that the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, which generates about a third of electricity consumed in the country.

But the surprise vote does impact the long-term outlook for the country's fuel consumption.

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That compares to South Korea's LNG imports of 33.4 million tonnes previous year, according to customs data.

Park Won-joo, Deputy Minister for Energy & Resources, said later at a briefing the government will reach a final decision on the nuclear reactors next Tuesday and then tell the state-run nuclear operator when to resume project construction.

There are now 24 nuclear reactors operating in Korea.

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