Almost four months have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster that shocked the world. In the wake of the radiation leak caused by the strong earthquake and the subsequent tsunami in the northeastern part of Japan, people have been using words like radioactivity, iodine, and cesium in daily conversations. Not surprisingly, nuclear energy is increasingly taken as potential "nuclear hazards" rather than as a pragmatic and clean energy source. The public views nuclear energy with fear and distrust despite its incredible affordability in electricity generation compared with thermal or solar power. There exists a clear distinction between nuclear power and nuclear threat, but too many people go to the extremes.
Horrible analogy on the powerful energy such as "monster catfish," "giant rat" and "ear-less rabbit" spark the fear of the public. Instead of actual and accurate report on the recent nuclear accident in Japan, many people are spreading rumors, consequently deepening the terror to the point of making some people look those who are working for nuclear power as someone like Frankenstein.
Lack in natural resources, Korea introduced nuclear power in order to supply energy that was essential for economic development. The country kept upgrading nuclear technologies for more than three decades since the commercial operation of Kori Unit 1 in 1979. Starting from scratch, Korea now owns world-class nuclear power operation and construction technologies. Finally in late 2009, Korea won the KRW 47 trillion contract for the Braka nuclear power plant construction in the UAE over many other strong global competitors. This welcoming news was more significant than ever since the achievement came after many experts who used to learn technologies from more advanced countries working together with passion and determination for someday like today. However, Korean nuclear technologies, which used to be part of Korea's pride just one year ago, are entering a difficult period after the catastrophe in Fukushima. The blind fear over a possible danger of nuclear power looms a strong sentimental obstacle.
However, that is not we have to do now. We should put nuclear safety first and foremost, but it is equally true that shunning the efficient energy will not benefit anyone. Surely enough, the government should focus on taking all possible measures against potential trivial danger away from complacency in the historic success of the UAE contract. It is time for the Korean government to gain back the public's confidence and alleviate their anxiety by further ensuring the safety of power plants that are currently either in operation or under construction with thorough and meticulous inspection. Moreover, the industry experts should communicate with the public to help them get a better understanding of nuclear power.
Now is also the time for us to confront the situation. Progress should be made in the competitive nuclear energy development. We have come a long way in developing the energy source thanks to strenuous effort by numerous researchers and technicians. Along with thorough analysis of the process and the result of the Fukushima accident, Korea should accelerate of the next-generation technologies including ITER, SMR (SMART), and Nu-Tech 2012. We as a country are now at a crossroads, faced with both a challenge and an opportunity.
Even at this moment, many of the seriously ill are being helped by radiation therapy at general hospitals. Nuclear power plays a crucial role in cancer diagnoses as well. It is also one of the most useful energy alternatives that will address climate change and other environmental issues. There is a long way to go from this sentimental trauma sparked by the Fukushima catastrophe. France, one of the global nuclear power leaders, recently declared to keep boosting the nuclear industry. Against this backdrop, vague fear and uninformed distrust in Korea may impede our national growth. Nuclear power deserves fact-based approach and evaluation considering the world-wide recognition that the affordable and safe energy source has fueled the Korean economy.