(December 19, 2003) The South Korean government abandoned its efforts to forcibly implement plans for a national nuclear waste facility at Wido an islet off the west coast of Buan County, North Jeola Province on 12 December. After a six month-long dispute with county residents over the construction of South Korea's first nuclear waste dump, the government now intends to seek additional regions willing to provide a site for the controversial facility.
(600.5561) Scientific Consulting for Energy and the Environment - "We recognize that the opinions of the public have not been reflected sufficiently in our choice of site, so we decided to adopt a voting system and accept a fresh round of bids from other interested regions," Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Yoon Jin-sik said.
Since 1986, the South Korean government has unsuccessfully tried to find a suitable site for final waste disposal, in the face of extreme resistance from residents of candidate sites. The country is the 6th largest producer of nuclear energy in the world with 40 % of its electricity is supplied by nuclear. (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 583.5492: "Nuclear waste dumpsite issue in South Korea")
In July 2003, after just one month of geological assessments, the government confirmed Wido, as the choice for the nation's first final nuclear waste storage site, ignoring the obvious geological facts, such as the underwater fault lines.
The inhabitants of the Buan County gathered in unprecedented numbers to show opposition to the decision. Demonstrations, rallies and actions in the last months drew tens of thousands of participants. Residents wore yellow clothing with anti-nuclear emblems and displayed thousands of yellow flags in protest against the planned waste disposal facilities. The scale of the demonstrations helped residents recognize their power as protestors and the courage and spirit shown galvanized the nation. Around the clock negotiations, press conferences, information brochures and resistance actions ensured that the protests were the main media topic in Korea.
The government response was to send 8000 policemen, transforming Buan into a fortress. (See WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 591.5535: "Massive actions against proposed South Korean waste dump") Although non-violent resistance is one of the highest goals of the protest movement in Buan, the police in attendance were not governed by the same principles. At least 400 demonstrators, including children and the elderly, were hurt in clashes with riot police whose aluminum riot shields, with knife-sharp edges, caused numerous injuries.
The "International Forum for Nuclear Waste Disposal" organized by KFEM (Korean Federation for Environmental Movement/Friends of the Earth Korea), No-nuke Buan People's Alliance and Won-buddhism was held in Buan from 25-27 November. The purpose was to provide information on nuclear waste issues world-wide and to refute government and industry claims that, for example, plutonium is safe to eat, spent fuel is a renewable resource and that the rest of the world successfully operated nuclear waste disposal facilities.
Source and contact: Oda Becker of Scientific Consulting for Energy and the Environment;