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South Korea's nuclear operator urges careful approach on energy policy

[SEOUL] The head of South Korea's nuclear operator said on Friday the new government should take a careful approach to plans to scale back nuclear power, given the need to ensure stable electricity supplies.

Lee Kwansup, chief executive of state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd (KHNP), said cutting back on nuclear, which accounts for about 30 per cent of South Korea's electricity, could also affect the sale of nuclear reactor overseas.

"It's a concern whether South Korea can realise the country's energy mix goal as pledged, and we should plan well on power facilities over the course of actualising the government's plan to scale back nuclear power," Mr Lee said at a forum in Seoul.

"The government is currently weighing how feasible pledges are and we will surely follow the government's policy when it's decided," Mr Lee added.

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South Korea's new President Moon Jae In has pledged to reduce the country's reliance on coal and nuclear power in a bid to mitigate air pollution and address concerns over safety of nuclear power.

He aims to quadruple the share of renewable power generation to 20 per cent by 2030, and has pledged to halt the construction of eight new nuclear plants, including two that are partly built.

KHNP, which is owned by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Co Ltd (KEPCO), operates 25 nuclear reactors in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

Scrapping a plan to build new reactors and bans on extending the life of older reactors would cut the number of reactors to 16, with total installed capacity falling to nearly 18 gigawatts from 23 gigwatts at present, Lee said.

South Korea, the world's fifth-biggest user of nuclear power, is also keen to export its nuclear reactor, known as the APR 1400.

"I think we should take a realistic approach because it could have a negative impact on exporting nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates," Mr Lee added.

In 2009, a KEPCO-led consortium won a deal to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, with work on the first reactor completed. KHNP is also one of the six groups looking to build nuclear reactors in the Czech Republic.