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Jury on fate of 2 unfinished nuclear reactors to enter crucial debate camp

2017/10/13 14:26

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SEOUL, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of members of a jury formed to deliberate on President Moon Jae-in's proposal to scrap two unfinished nuclear power reactors were to enter a three-day debate camp Friday in a crucial final step to determine whether to kill or continue the project.

Up to 478 members of the jury, which is formally known as the "citizens' participation group," have since last month been familiarizing themselves with the pros and cons of the controversial proposal to abandon construction of the Shingori-5 and Shingori-6 reactors in the southeastern city of Ulsan.

Starting Friday evening, they are scheduled to spend two nights together for final debates. The camp, set to be held at the Gyeseongwon retreat training center in the central city of Cheonan, is crucial because participants are expected to make up their mind depending on the debates.

Officials plan to conduct two surveys asking the participants whether the reactors' construction should continue or end, at the beginning and end of the camp. Results are expected to be the main basis of a recommendation that a state commission plans to make on the reactors' fate next week.

During the camp, participants will hear briefings by experts, take part in group and plenary discussions, and hold question and answer sessions, according to officials of the commission charged with overseeing the process.

They will also be shown videos featuring those calling for the continuation or cancellation of the project, such as residents near the site of the reactors and young people, officials said.

In an effort to reduce South Korea's dependence on nuclear energy, Moon proposed scrapping the reactor project. The government then established the independent commission and charged it with gauging public opinion on the proposal. It also suspended the reactors' construction until a decision is made.

The commission plans to unveil its recommendation Oct. 20. Government officials have said that they will fully endorse whatever recommendation the commission makes.

The problem is what the commission will do if the results of the survey are within the margin of error. Separate opinion polls have shown that pros and cons are neck and neck, with four Gallup surveys showing the public is nearly evenly split with differences of less than five percentage points.

The reactors were about 28.8 percent complete before construction was suspended in July.

The proposal to scrap work on the reactors sparked heated debate in a country that relies on nuclear reactors for about a third of its electricity. Proponents say the country should phase out nuclear power for safety and environmental reasons, but opponents say it will lead to a shortage in the power supply and a spike in electricity prices, and that too much money has already been spent on the construction.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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