Democratic Party lawmakers who supported the Moon Jae-in administration’s policy to phase out nuclear power took a business trip and inspected facilities for processing high level radioactive waste in Europe right before the end of Moon’s term in office, it has been reported belatedly, sparking controversy.
According to the Secretariat of the National Assembly, Democratic Party Rep. Hong Ik-pyo joined Rep. Lee Jae-jeong and Lee Jang-sup of his party and main opposition People Power Party Rep. Kim Young-shik to visit Austria and France from April 2 to April 9 this year. “We have reconfirmed that nuclear energy has an important role to play in translating the principle of carbon neutrality into a reality,” the lawmakers wrote in a trip report, dubbed ‘a study on exemplary cases of reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and disposal of radioactive waste,’ which was submitted to the National Assembly after the trip.
When meeting with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Gross, Rep. Hong said, “I agree to his opinion that continued use of nuclear energy is useful means for reducing carbon emission.” When visiting underground research facilities at the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA), the lawmaker said, “I have strong interest in the development and use of nuclear energy.” They spent a total of 61.22 million won (approx. 47,300 dollars) on the business trip.
“Acts of Democratic Party lawmakers who continuously called for nuclear power phaseout throughout the Moon administration are incompatible with their activities during the tour,” critics in the political circle said. While serving as senior spokesman for the then ruling Democratic Party in March 2019, Rep. Hong said, “The Moon Jae-in administration’s energy transition through nuclear phaseout is an irreversible task of this era.” Rep. Lee Jang-sup said, “Nuclear energy is not economical,” while Rep. Lee Jae-jung said, “(The pace of nuclear phaseout) is almost shameful.”
“Rep. Hong said that remark in a diplomatic gesture while holding conversation,” said an aide to the lawmaker. “He took an inspection visit because Korea needs storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel as we are operating nuclear plants, and the visit has nothing to do with issues surrounding nuclear phaseout.”
Hoon-Sang Park email@example.com