South Korean President vows to phase out nuclear and coal - Greenpeace

Press release - 19 June, 2017
Busan, 19 June 2017 - South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, today announced a major shift towards renewables by phasing out nuclear and coal. In the ambitious speech, Moon promised to scrap existing plans for new nuclear plants and will not extend the life of old reactors; and promised to shut down 10 old coal power plants and cancel new coal projects.

This is a globally significant turnaround for South Korea, which counts as one of the top nuclear producers in the world.

“People in South Korea have been demanding an energy transition for a long time in major cities and this is one reason why President Moon’s electoral pledge for a safe and clean energy policy was so popular during the presidential campaign,” said Daul Jang, Senior Climate & Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia (Seoul). “Moon’s announcement is a clear answer to the people. It’s a historic day and the first step towards an energy democracy.”

President Moon’s statement was made during the official ceremony of the permanent shutdown of Kori-1, the country’s oldest nuclear power plant that has been operating for 40 years. In his speech, Moon said he will focus on developing solar and offshore wind power; and described renewable energy as the new engine of growth. He also mentioned the premature shutdown of Wolsung 1, and promised a public consultation to decide the fate of two new reactors, Shin Kori 5 and 6, which are currently under construction [1].

“We are living in a different world from the 1970s when nuclear power kicked-off in Korea. Incidents such as the Fukushima disaster, the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Gyeongju 2016 and the worsening fine dust pollution in large cities all became critical turning points for people to realise that safety and health are of foremost value. Nuclear and coal are clearly two of the most unsafe and polluting energy resources,” said Jang. 

“Wind and solar energy will account for over a third of the world's power generation by 2040 so President Moon’s promise to prioritise renewables as a source of national growth provides great hope. We can only expect this to strengthen the competitiveness of the Korean industry, both nationally and internationally.” [2]

In January this year, a groundbreaking peer reviewed study from researchers at Harvard University and Greenpeace International said approximately 50,000 lives a year could saved by 2030 if no new coal-fired power plants are built in Southeast Asia, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan [3].

Moon’s announcement also ensures that Korea delivers on its current climate target of 37% by 2030 as outlined in the Paris agreement [4]. On Friday, at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) meeting, Moon mentioned a 20% renewable energy target by 2030 [5].

Notes to Editors

Photos can be accessed here.

[1] Mention of proposed shutdown of Wolsung 1 and Shin Kori 5 &6

[2] Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2017 on global renewables growth:

[3] Cancelling new coal plants in Southeast Asia, Korea, Japan would save 50,000 lives a year

[4] South Korea’s Paris agreement target

[5] Energy target mentioned at the AIIB meeting

Media Contacts

Lynn Kim, Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia (Seoul), ,  +82-10-7913-7903

Greenpeace International Press Desk, , +31 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)