Earlier this month, two 1-million-kilowatt nuclear reactors at the Yeonggwang plant on the southwest coast came to a halt following the discovery that they had used what authorities called "unproven" parts that some suppliers provided by fabricating quality warranties.
The cold season does not usually see as great an increase in electricity consumption as the summer, as oil and coal are more commonly used for heating than electric heaters. But the shutdown of the reactors, which together account for nearly 4 percent of the country's total electricity supply, is expected to seriously undermine the government's efforts to maintain the power reserve at above what it considers to be a safe level of 4 percent.
"Electricity demand is expected to soar, as weather forecasts say the average temperature for this winter will be lower than before." Kim said in a statement to the public. Notwithstanding, we are in an uphill battle to meet the skyrocketing demand," he said.
"Energy saving equals energy production," Kim said, asking for cooperation of citizens.
Vowing to swiftly solve problems with the nuclear reactors to resume their operation by the year's end, Kim stressed the country's nuclear technology is "the world's top level, and the troubles so far do not seriously affect the safety of our nuclear reactors overall, according to experts."
Pointing to the cheap price of electricity as one of the major reasons for soaring demand, he noted, "The rate of the demand increase is six times higher than the average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries."
"In principle, we should raise electricity prices to reduce consumption. But we should be prudent in doing so with an awareness of industry competitiveness and the possible burden shouldered by citizens," he said.
He said the government will come up with diverse measures to manage electricity demand, including maintaining indoor temperatures below 18 to 20 C public buildings and private facilities for public use, respectively, and shifting into emergency mode in case the country's power supply reserve drops below the designated safe level of 4 million kilowatts.
"I urge businesses, civic organizations and the general public to participate in this campaign," Kim said.
Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik (R) calls on the public to join the government's energy-saving campaign on Nov. 16, 2012 in Seoul, as concerns have flared up over a possible power shortage during the winter following the halted operation of two nuclear reactors. (Yonhap)