Nuclear Power Generation is Like Nuclear Weapons

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

In this September issue, I will talk about and focus a Korean issue in relation to nuclear power generation for Asian young ones.

South Korea’s new president, who was elected in the presidential election last May, has made a number of problematic remarks. Among them, he denounced the previous administration’s nuclear-free policy as “stupid.” “If we had not done stupid things for five years and had built a solid nuclear power plant ecosystem, there would be no competitors now,” said the new president.

Judging from this logic, the current government’s ‘not stupid’ is, of course, a ‘pro-nuclear policy’. To revitalize the nuclear power plant industry, it is said that the nuclear power plant will be built again, and old nuclear power plants close to its expiry will be utilized by extending their lifespan. t is an energy policy in the opposite direction to that of the previous government. From the current government’s point of view, not only the previous government, but also the Korean Catholic Church, which opposes all nuclear technologies including nuclear power plants, is doing something stupid also.

This is because the Catholic Church’s opposition to nuclear technology is clearly expressed in the document titled “Nuclear Technology and the Teachings of the Church – The Korean Catholic Church’s Reflection on Nuclear Power” published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) in November, 2013. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan in March 2011, the CBCK published this document to urge the transition to a nuclear-free society.

This pamphlet is based on the conviction that “nuclear power generation poses a serious threat to mankind and will leave a catastrophe for future generations.” In particular, the bishops decided to use the term ‘nuclear technology’ as an official term rather than the term ‘atomic power generation’ in response to the problem of diluting the negative image of nuclear technology. In particular, it raises the issue of the right to life and the right to the environment in relation to nuclear weapons.

“In relation to nuclear weapons, things to reflect on are especially the right to life and the right to the environment. Nuclear technology (nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants) seriously violates the right to life and the right to the environment. The logic of nuclear deterrence that we have nuclear weapons to protect our right to life is not valid. … The logic that nuclear power is a means for economic development is also unacceptable. Everyone has economic rights. But no right can take precedence over the right to life” (no.119).

It also points out that “The government, business, science and media all approach nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation only with economic logic without ethical reflection.” (no.135) As I mentioned earlier, the current government announced that it would push ahead with the plan to include nuclear power in Korea’s “K-Taxonomy” or the green classification system, going beyond the ‘foolishness’ of the previous administration’s policy to phase out nuclear power. Renewable energy, which must be urgently increased to respond to the climate crisis, is behind the scenes. It remains to be seen whether the energy policy of ‘increasing only nuclear power plants’ in Korea, where the share of renewable energy is the only one among major countries, is desirable.

Let’s go back to the document of the Korean bishops who are deeply concerned about the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis in Japan. They point out that the problem of radioactive contamination at the Fukushima nuclear power plant still shows no sign of being resolved. The problem with nuclear power plants, as seen in the Fukushima accident, is beyond human capabilities to manage.

I talked much about the Korean nuclear power issue here, but in fact, the confrontation between India and Pakistan both of whom have nuclear weapons, is a very serious problem, along with the issue of denuclearization between the South and the North Korea, and the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. It is important to publicize the still controversial nuclear power plant issue and lead an open and transparent discussions on it.

From a Christian’s point of view, it seems appropriate for the current society to move away from the social atmosphere that despises life because of its economic value and move toward a society that truly respects life. It is time to seriously consider the transition to a renewable, eco-friendly energy-centered policy, rather than nuclear or coal-fired power generation that forces the suffering of the powerless.