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[Opinion] Anti-Nuclear Protestors Scuttled Wido and Buan’s Nuclear Site Chances

[Opinion] Anti-Nuclear Protestors Scuttled Wido and Buan’s Nuclear Site Chances

Posted November. 04, 2005 07:13,   


In July 2003, when Wido, an islet off Buan County in North Jeolla Province, was nominated as the radioactive waste repository site, some anti-nuclear organizations and environmental groups gathered together in the region to protest violently against the proposal. They instigated fears among residents, shouting angry messages that nuclear waste meant death, and that the repository facility would cause deformed children and livestock.

Banners with skull images covered the entire county. Several anti-nuclear religious leaders continued to give anti-nuclear lectures to the residents and some protested with “three-steps, one bow,” a type of Buddhist protest.

As a consequence, the plan to make Wido the site for the nuclear repository was cancelled and the government received new applicants. After four cities competed through plebiscites, the city of Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang Province was confirmed as the new site for nuclear repository.

A sub-atomic particle accelerator will be built in the region, and it will also become the site for the new headquarters of the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company. In addition, the city will receive a special government subsidy of 300 billion won. This, in turn, should create 20,000 new jobs.

Gyeongju residents had a better understanding of nuclear power plants thanks to the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant Complex located in the region. With four nuclear reactors already under operation, Gyeongju citizens wanted to achieve local development by hosting the repository site, and their wishes have at last borne fruit.

Kim Jong-gyu, the Buan county governor, and Wido residents are distressed by the fact that another region was selected for the repository site, after causing massive riots and sacrifices. They have lost a precious opportunity that was almost given to them. As the plebiscite to apply for the site was rejected by the evenly divided vote of the Buan county assembly with six approvals and disapprovals each, the Buan county governor held a sit-down strike alone by himself, asking the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy for another opportunity to vote. However, even if Buan had held a plebiscite, it would have been difficult to get more support form the residents than that of Gyeongju or Gunsan in North Jeolla, because Buan residents’ fears of nuclear energy were already too high, thanks to the efforts of anti-nuclear groups .

Environmental groups around the world have already given up their protests against nuclear power. As glaciers in the Polar Regions are melting down, and dramatic climate disasters are occurring, the focus of environmental groups is now on preventing global warming.

The most effective alternative to fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide, is nuclear energy. It also does not make sense, that domestic anti-nuclear groups are putting their lives on the line to oppose the construction of nuclear power plants, but are keeping their mouths shut about the nuclear program in North Korea, which can be used in producing weapons of mass destruction. I’d really like to know what kind of responsibility the anti-nuclear organizations are feeling for the residents of Buan and Wido.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com