South Koreans support building two new nuclear reactors

South Koreans recommended the government Friday continue building two stalled nuclear reactors that the new president had wanted to shutter, after months of deliberation on the issue that divided South Korea over the future of its key energy source.

Kim Ji-hyung, head of the commission, said 59.5 percent of the panel supported resumption while 40.5 percent voted for discontinuation.

Local contractors and companies involved in the Shin Kori construction project breathed a sigh of relief but others view the decision as delaying the Moon administration's drive to push forward with its renewable energy initiative.

"We respect the will of the committee", said Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun, speaking at a media briefing after the committee in charge of the survey found almost 60 percent of respondents were in favour of the move.

An expert at a government think tank said the size of the win in favour of the projects meant the government had no choice, but to go with the committee's recommendation. "Many expected the difference would be a maximum 10 percentage points, but as it turned out, it stood almost at 20", said Roh Dong-seok, senior research fellow at the Korea Energy Economics Institute.

But the survey's result does not reflect overriding trust on the nuclear industry. Almost 1.6 trillion won ($1.4 billion) has already been spent on the project. KEPCO Plant Service & Engineering gained 1.7%. Nuclear energy provides about a third of energy needs in the resource-poor Asian country and used to be a source of pride. The biggest impact will likely fall on imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which South Korea is the world's second-largest buyer.

Giam said, however, the survey did not totally derail the government's energy policies.

Winding down South Korea's nuclear power generation was a campaign promise for Moon, who was elected in May after the impeachment of predecessor Park Geun-hye.

But while the government will still pursue scaling back nuclear power overall, said Yoo Seung-Hoon, energy policy professor at Seoul National University of Science & Technology, "as these two reactors have a total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, that will leave little room for gas-fired power plants".

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