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Economy

South Korea committee votes to resume nuclear plant construction

Citizens' panel's decision deals blow to Moon's clean energy policy

The Shin Kori nuclear reactors, under construction near Busan in August.   © Kyodo

SEOUL -- A citizens' panel recommended Friday that the government resume construction of two nuclear power plants in the southeastern part of the country, putting the brakes on President Moon Jae-in's plan to replace nuclear power with renewable energy.

The Public Opinion Committee on Shin Kori 5 and 6 said that 59.5% of the 471 citizen representatives supported resuming construction of the two power plants, which the government temporarily halted in June. The remaining 40.5% voted for stopping the construction.

"The citizen panel discussed nuclear power's [impact on] safety, the economy, the environment and the stable supply of electricity. More and more people supported resuming construction as our talks progressed," said Kim Ji-hyung, chairman of the committee, at a press conference.

The decision will deal a blow to Moon, who promised to stop construction of the two nuclear power plants during his campaign earlier this year. He vowed to cut the country's reliance on nuclear power, raising questions about safety, and sought to replace it with renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

However, the committee recommended that the government design its energy policy to reduce reliance on nuclear power, with 53.2% support, with a continuous push for its nuclear-free agenda. The panel also asked the government to strengthen safety standards for nuclear plants.

The presidential Blue House said that it respects the committee's decisions and will take steps to follow its recommendations. The government's official announcement to resume construction is expected next week.

The decision will help three builders in charge of the construction -- Samsung C&T, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and Hanwah E&C -- continue to work on the project. Samsung C&T has a 51% stake in the 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion) project, followed by Doosan and Hanwah, which own 39% and 10%, respectively.

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