Singori Nuclear Reactors 5 and 6’s Public Consultation and the Tasks Ahead


by Hwang Jeong-eun (General Secretary, ISC)

On Dec. 16, the International Strategy Center invited our Advisor Director of Energy Justice Actions Lee Heon-seok to present on “Singori Nuclear Reactors 5 and 6's Public Consultation and the Tasks Ahead.” Lee’s participation in the public consultation as part of the Citizens’ Action to Cancel Construction of the Singori 5,6, allowed him to share an insider’s perspective not available in the media. We also wanted to hear his thoughts on deliberative democracy through the public consultation and the seemingly paradoxical vote where 59% of those consulted voted for resumption of the two nuclear power reactors even as 53% of these same people voted for an energy policy reducing nuclear power. Our lecture participants showed great interest in the energy issue and followed up with many questions after the lecture.

The public consultation started when the Moon Administration forsook its campaign promise of cancelling construction of Singori 5, 6 nuclear reactors and created a public consultation to decide the fate of the nuclear reactors. The Public Consultation Committee began on Jul. 24 of 2017. 471 people discussed and carried out 4 rounds of investigations. After three months, the group recommended resuming construction of the nuclear reactors and then disbanded. While the anti-nuclear movement had criticized President Moon for backtracking on his promise of shutting down the reactors, it had nonetheless decided to actively participate in the popular consultation process.

The public consultation had clear limitations. First, consulting a group of random people unaware of the issue meant that their understanding of the long and complex pro and anti-nuclear power debate was insufficient. Secondly, the consultation was limited by the lack of voices from the regions directly affected by the reactors or even that of future generations that would inherit the power plants and nuclear waste. Finally, and most importantly, the 40 years of government agencies promoting nuclear energy meant that the playing field of debate was already pro nuclear. Nonetheless, despite these limitations, the public consultation was meaningful since the public had directly participated in deciding energy policy for the first time. The antinuclear power movement is left with the fundamental question of how to win over the public and the lesson to more intensely plan and prepare before future such consultations.

After concluding the public consultation, the Public Consultation Committee created a comprehensive white paper entitled “Public Deliberation, The Record of a Journey” to be used as reference and an evaluation of deliberative democracy. While the government has adopted the public consultation’s recommendation and resumed construction of Singori 5, 6 nuclear reactors, the recent earthquakes in Pohang City with its high concentration of nuclear reactors is once again questioning the decision. Ultimately, we need greater public interest in energy policy and sustainable energy. Thus, the International Strategy Center will continue covering energy issues and explore sustainable alternatives.