PARIS—South Korea has a desperate relationship with nuclear power. It imports 97 percent of its fossil fuels from abroad, so Koreans have viewed nuclear power as an essential source of domestic energy.
But South Korea has nowhere to put radioactive waste. Capacity remains for about 5,000 tons of waste, but it will have a projected waste stockpile of 47,000 tons by 2050.
“Korea is a very, very small country—small land—so we expect it will be very difficult to find some final disposal site in Korea," said Kwang-Seok Lee, an official of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, in an appearance in Chicago last year.
The national solution has been to build Generation IV sodium-fast reactors that use waste from conventional reactors as fuel.
But the citizens of Seoul are demonstrating an alternative.
"Our vision is to have the Seoul citizens produce and efficiently consume energy," said Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, at the Paris Climate Conference yesterday.
"Seoul citizens are becoming the owners of solar power plants by directly participating in solar generation through installation of mini solar photovoltaic, energy cooperative activities, or raising solar funds."
In 2012, the city launched its One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative, encouraging citizens to eliminate the need for a nuclear plant by saving energy and generating renewable energy at home.
Fourteen months later, and six months ahead of schedule, Seoul had cumulatively offset the equivalent of the annual capacity of one nuclear power plant— just over 2 million TOE (tons of oil equivalent).
So a few months ago, Seoul decided to double down. The city's new goal is to save 4 TOE over five years, the equivalent of the annual capacity of two nuclear power plants, by 2020.
Why is Park talking about an anti-nuclear initiative at a climate change conference? Because the initiative is also reducing carbon emissions—10 million tons by 2020, Park pledged.
"Seoul is ready to share with the world proof that local actions can achieve global vision," Park said. "Citizens are the energy of Seoul."
Correction: This story originally reported that Seoul had pledged to reduce carbon emissions 10 billion tons by 2020. The correct number is 10 million.
Seoul Teaches A New Way To Prevent Nukes