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32 Comments

  1. Gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea can bypass North Korea if the undersea route is chosen. It may even be cheaper this way.

    1. @Syndroma

      It is rarely cheaper to run pipelines under water than on land. That is especially true when the underwater route is longer than the land route.

      1. The NordStream pipelines through the Baltic sea are installed:
        – to avoid the increased ‘rights of way’ fees that Belarus asks; and
        – the blackmail which its dictator explicitly expressed (further huge increase of ‘rights of way’ fees if Russia wouldn’t continue to deliver natural gas far below market price to Belarus)

        Considering the risks, it seems to me that S.Korea will prefer the sea route unless that is really extreme costly, which seems unlikely.

  2. It looks like both Vladivostok-Seoul routes are about the same length. But if there exists a pipeline to the east of Seoul, than the underwater route is shorter.

    But my comment was not about that. There is a lot of experience in building of underwater pipelines. The costs are predictable. Nobody knows what it’s like to build a pipeline in North Korea.

  3. And herein the problem. Nuclear power is seen as an “issue” that politicians need to have an opinion on, regardless of industrial reality. This isn’t the case for other well-functioning industries.

    From there it is almost inevitably vulnerable to the threat of political interference, increasing business risk and thus costs. As an electricity supplier, as an investor, as someone making a career decision – should you get into, or stay in, a business that could be closed on the outcome of an election?

    I don’t think South Korea is quite that close to the cliff edge, but it is a worrying development.

    1. should you get into, or stay in, a business that could be closed on the outcome of an election?
      A rightful question considering e.g. that Italy decided to close it’s 2 operating NPP’s after the disastrous results of the 1987 referendum.
      Also the 860MW Caorso NPP which started in 1978 was closed in 1990. So 23years after its start.

  4. It really show’s the failure of the nuclear industry world wide to educate the public.

    1. @Donald Ernst

      I believe that the nuclear industry needs to stop thinking about how they can “educate” the public and begin spending more time thinking about how they can capture public interest and goodwill. We need to excite them about the wonderful ways in which our technology can make their lives more comfortable, more interesting, more prosperous, and more fun. We need to show them how we can address their problems with real solutions without making them feel guilty and without asking them to make sacrifices for our benefit.

      Marketing and communication is what I think we need. It is vain for us to believe that we should be able to teach the public what they need to know about our product and insulting for us to keep telling the public that they are lacking in education.

      1. Well said. The current commonly accepted messages on energy and water are conserve until it hurts and expect everything to be more expensive. Oh, and don’t forget to feel guilty if you’re not living in poverty.

        There must be some audience for the message that we can have a bright, prosperous, comfortable future that is both cleaner and richer than what we’re doing now, through our own efforts and ingenuity.

      2. Rod,
        That is what Italian govt tried with its ‘revive nuclear’ promotion campaign in the 2007-2011 (nuclear cheaper, reliable, meets climate targets, no environmental pollution, really needed, etc).
        The necessary laws were accepted by parliament.

        But in the June 2011 referendum 95% of the voters rejected (55% turnout).
        Of course the referendum timing was unlucky after Fukushima, but govt didn’t try again.

        1. It didn’t help that Berlusconi was running the referendum, and the public were tired of his antics. Notwithstanding which, Italy still imports more nuclear power from France, Switzerland, and Slovenia than it uses from home-grown, and heavily subsidised, solar. And Italy gets a higher percentage of power from solar than any other country.

      3. A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Tom Nichols entitled “How America Lost Faith in Expertise: And Why That’s a Giant Problem” (March/April 2017, Vol 96, Is. 2) spoke to the same topic of goodwill and public interest though I would broaden that to indicate a healthy relationship of trust.

        “[A] relationship between experts and citizens rests on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. When that foundation erodes, experts and laypeople become warring factions…”

        I’ll restrain from providing more quotes as there are many relevant passages of the article to this discussion that I would simply encourage one to read it.

        Have a good one!

  5. Korea has had antinuclear elements since the 1970s (e.g., Yul Choi has long led antis in the ROK). The coincidence of Fukushima with the cable scandal really has stoked the opposition to nuclear. Perhaps the recent issues with North Korea will help mollify calls for a gas pipeline. The original reason Korea went nuclear was to prevent the North from threatening energy supplies.

    [As disclosure, I worked in the ROK back in the 90s during the Yonggwang (now Hanbit) 3 and 4 Project]

    1. @Robert Margolis

      Have you maintained professional contacts inside the ROK? I’d like to find ways of keeping closer tabs on its political situation vis a vis nuclear energy development.

  6. I suspect that a pipe laid underwater that close to North Korea would run into lots of problems about being in North Korean waters, and suffer the consequences….
    When I worked at Kori 2 in the early 80’s during its startup, they wouldn’t even let us near the beach after dark.

    1. Pipes in deep water is no longer such a problem, so possible no need to lay the pipe near N.Korean waters. The only real issue is that the bottom of the sea must be not to hilly (e.g. no deep canyons).

      But even if such is the case. The research regarding the installation of floating gas pipes at >1,000meter deep in the ocean between Iran and India, had a positive outcome.*)

      *) India wants to avoid Pakistan territory. It started quietly a new border war more south, after settlement of the 25yrs old Siachen glacier war in 2003.
      Btw.
      Wikipedia states wrongly that the Siachen war started in 1983 but it was already going on for years in 1980 when I was 3 months in the Pakistan part of the region. The army officer who accompanied us, praised himself lucky that he could avoid to be sent to Siachen as the army suffered already hundreds of deaths (many due to the high altitude and cold).

  7. 80% of the world’s fleet of LNG tankers is build in Korean shipyards. These need a continued rapid growth of the LNG market. Stagnation means no new ships ordered. So it might be worth investigating if this important domestic industry has its gassy fingerprints on recent anti-nuclearism in Korea.
    The ludicrous Fukushima food import bans were already a worrying sign.

  8. On the other hand, the UEA nuclear plant is good for LNG shippers, as reducing local demand increases the price differential that makes shipments profitable. However, in a rational world, it would be much more attractive to build the plant in Korea instead. Competing against imported LNG should be much easier than against abundant local gas.

  9. The mention of Russian gas makes me wonder if the Russians might be influencing the Korean elections.

  10. Need to demonstrate with absolute certainty that the Fukushima Prefecture can and must be re-populated right now.. The entire nuclear industry is already being forced into bankruptcy because of the hostility resulting from this accident. Outside of the 500 or so people involved in discussions and industry, there is severe, catastrophic, infested 100% opposition to nuclear..

  11. Two reasons why this might not be as bad as it seems.

    The last (recently impeached) president also made a lot of anti-nuclear noise during her campaign (I remember being pissed off about it). But then, in office, she (apparently) did nothing.

    Second, anti-nuclear leaders rarely interfere with the export industry. After all, the nuclear plant isn’t in their country, and who would be against jobs and profits for a national industry? For example, Hollande did nothing to oppose AREVA projects in other nations, and Japan did nothing to oppose off shore reactor projects. Even anti-nuclear publics rarely demand that a country stop selling reactors to other countries.

    I suppose I’m not sure I agree with Rod’s assertion that fewer projects at home would interfere with an industry’s ability to perform foreign projects. As long as there is a sufficient number of such projects (i.e., it’s the total number that matters, not if they are foreign or domestic). It could even be argued that fewer projects at home would free up resources to concentrate on any foreign projects.

    Perhaps I’ve put too much stock in the notion that Korea has become the best (low cost, high quality) plant builder in the world. As I result, I’ve been starting to assume that the number of domestic (Korean) plants would be dwarfed by the number of plants they will be building in other countries in the coming decades. I was thinking dozens, if not ~100.

  12. I would argue it is not about building or not building plants exported by the ROK to other countries that is the most important thing. When we look at the ROC nuclear industry we really see a well run industry, as Rod noted. That is what is under threat, possibly, by these upcoming May elections. We will see.

    Pipelines are very vulnerable to sabotage. It’s is literary like having an underwater IV line from a plasma bag located down the block for sick person, strung up along the walls of the buildings and houses along the way. What could go wrong?

    It is *insane* to get rid of nuclear to put the country’s entire energy security on such an IV line. One line I should add, no redundancy, either. For a fossil fuel we should be using for other purposes than generation…when it is SO unnecessary!

    1. As with Nordstream through the Baltic sea, it won’t be one pipe.
      You may also assume other measures are taken such as underground storage in natural cavities. Enough to survive for a year or so, which would be enough to install emergency LNG facilities in harbors, convert partly to coal/oil, etc.
      Similar as Germany did.

      1. Lots of Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) with pipelines these days. Look at the difficulties with the pipeline in North Dakota and the Keystone pipeline. It may be irrational, but there is a growing force in the public to stop these pipelines. They are obviously an easy target for terrorists.

        Haven’t Germany’s emissions been growing since their shift to coal? See link.

        http://www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2017/1/13/breaking-german-emissions-increase-in-2016-for-second-year-in-a-row-due-to-nuclear-closure

        Germany may not be a good model to follow.

        1. Pipeline FUDs plays a role in USA but not in Europe. May be because USA had some substantial (and anyway has more) leakages?
          Assume also no FUD in S.Korea.

          German emissions, and its emissions due to electricity are two different things. Your link mix things up in order to reach the targeted, but wrong, conclusion. Emissions at start Energiewende
          in 2000 640g/KWh; nuclear 170TWh, renewable 389TWh
          in 2010 557g/KWh; nuclear 141TWh, renewable 105TWh
          in 2015 535g/KWh; nuclear 92TWh, renewable 187TWh
          Figures from UBA (Umwelt Bundes Amt) and AGEB.

          Couldn’t find the emission figure for 2016 at the UBA site.
          But I assume it increased a little as in 2016 renewable was +4TWh and nuclear -7TWh (bad weather).

          Agree that emissions reductions would be bigger if nuclear out wasn’t the first priority of the Energiewende and German population.
          But those reductions will move full steam after 2022 as then there is no nuclear, hence fossil will be competed off the market by the ~6GW/a new wind & sun.
          (German grid is ~70GW, wind+solar capacity is ~90GW).

          1. Please read the year 2000 line as:

            in 2000 640g/KWh; nuclear 170TWh, renewable 38TWh.

            Sorry for the typo regarding renewable.

          2. Eino,
            The responsible agency (UBA) reports that in 2016 compared to 2015 emissions:
            – due to traffic (mainly cars) increased 3.6%
            – due to industry didn’t change
            – due to power supply decreased 0.9%. Mainly because coal+lignite decreased 12TWh (but more gas).

            Note that the emission figures are preliminary. Final figures will be reported at May 18th after checking by the German Emission Trading supervisor.*)
            ____
            *) Emission rights are traded in the EU, though not for an high price yet. That price will increase gradually as emission rights decrease now 2.2%/a. Hence if his emissions stay the same, one has to buy 2.2% more rights each year. And the total volume doesn’t increase (there are some exceptions).

  13. “in 2015 535g/KWh; nuclear 92TWh, renewable 187TWh”

    Is nuclear required to “back down” when wind / solar etc are available. Could this be penalizing the amount that nuke plants could actually generate? If they do, it makes no sense to back down nuclear since it is an emission free source.

    1. The German government took a couple of measures against the nuclear generators that made it in their interests to dial down reactors. One was a restriction on the total number of megawatt hours a reactor was allowed to operate, so that they might ‘ hoard ‘ production for when resources were scarce. Another was the negative pricing caused when subsidised wind and solar must-take output flooded the market at times of low demand. The reactor operators still had to pay all their normal running costs, but at least if they cut production they didn’t have to chip in extra while the renewables had their hero hour. There was also a fuel tax, designed to grab back the advantage over coal that the carbon tax would otherwise have given the nuclear units. The fuel tax in Sweden was based on the plants capacity, and charged whether it was actually producing or not; I’m not sure how it worked in Germany.

    2. CO2 emissions are a MacGuffin. What’s important is that natural gas use and profits will be secure. Particularly after we export much of it to Europe in order to bring down Putin.

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