Seoul officially includes nuclear energy in green taxonomy
The government under President Yoon Suk-yeol out to undo reactor phase-out policy of the past administration is officially classifying nuclear energy as green and sustainable taxonomy.
The Ministry of Environment on Tuesday unveiled a draft on the green taxonomy – a classification of eco-friendly activities on a national level – to include nuclear energy.
Korea’s green taxonomy, also referred to as K-taxonomy, classifies eco-friendly economic activities as either “green activities” or “transitional activities.” Green activities include eco-friendly economic activities that contribute to carbon neutrality and climate change while transitional activities are those that are not quite considered to be green economic activities.
The revision includes classifying the research and development of nuclear energy technology such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and accident tolerant fuels (ATFs) as green economic activities and nuclear energy plant construction and operation as transitional economic activities.
The recognition may trigger backlash due to concerns about safety and nuclear waste. Climate organizations have said that including nuclear power – which produces radioactive nuclear waste that cannot be properly disposed of – as a green taxonomy goes against the taxonomy’s core goal of avoiding greenwashing.
Green taxonomy guidelines are also important because they determine which companies can receive green investments. Banks are also currently providing loans for economic activities as part of the green taxonomy at low-interest rates.
The EU also has a green taxonomy system that the European Parliament voted in favor of in July, which declares nuclear power plants to be green if they meet certain requirements such as presenting detailed plans to have a radioactive waste disposal facility in operation by 2050, switching to accident-tolerant fuel (ATF) by 2025, limiting greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production at 100g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt, and possessing the funds to decommission nuclear energy plants.
Unlike the EU taxonomy, Korea’s guidelines do not include deadlines for securing disposal facilities and provide more time to transition to ATF.
“The basic plan for radioactive waste disposal facilities from December last year (under the previous Moon Jae-in administration) remains which is why we did not set a specific deadline,” said the Environment Ministry. Based on this plan, the earliest the waste disposal facilities can operate is 2060 and the earliest ATFs can be commercialized is 2031.
By Susan Lee
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