Global Resources: Energy:

The Global Energy Crisis and Its Countermeasures

by Dr. Lim Yang-Taek
Professor of Economics, Hanyang University

Editor's note: Dr. Lim is a frequent contributor to this journal and, in addition to his work in economics and energy-related matters, is highly active in seeking a lasting solution to the lingering threat to peace in his homeland. For related articles by Dr. Lim, refer to "A New Proposal for a Northeast Peace City on the Korean Peninsula", "Recent Crisis on the Korean Peninsula and the Outlook for the Future", and "A New Proposal for Korea's Reunification." In August 2002 Dr. Lim became the first recipient of the BWW Society Global Solutions Prize, which was awarded to him at the 2002 International Congress in Saint Germain-en-Laye, France for his tireless efforts to achieve peace and security on the Korean peninsula. He also authored the Feature Editorial of the September-October 2002 issue of this journal, "One Year Later: New Threats to World Peace Since September 2001 and New Disputes within the New International Order".

I.          Introduction


The origin of the word ‘energy’ is ‘energeia’ originated from a Greek word ‘ergon’, which means ‘ability to do work’. In fact, because the earth, the solar system and the entire universe was born of energy, energy was at work eons before the first human beings ever witnessed its power. Energy has created much for humankind as light, power and fuel, and has supported the development of human civilization. Just as in the past and at the present, this will hold true in our future.


Energy has a close relationship with human development. As energy sources developed from ‘1st fire’ oil, ‘2nd fire’ electricity and ‘3rd fire’ steam engines, generators, diesel and gasoline engines, and nuclear power plants have developed, in their listed order.


Concretely, the use of fossil energy got into stride with the invention of the steam engine. This led to the first Industrial Revolution, causing large amounts of coal to be produced and consumed. The coal-powered steam engine served as power for factories, ships and trains, further accelerating the industrial revolution. As coal was produced on a massive scale, coal prices declined, which led to the use of coal instead of firewood and charcoal, which had been the predominant energy sources. Thereafter, coal became the dominant energy source of the industrializing nations.


In the late 19th century, the invention of generators and electric motors led to an even wider use of electric energy as it could then be generated by hydropower and steam engines. Especially, electricity became a necessity to fulfill the growing desire for a rich and pleasant life. As the information society progresses, the importance of energy is such that now even a momentary power failure is quickly overcome with back-up generators.


Oil was known to the ancient world. Its use came into stride with the invention of the oil lamp. In modern times, the internal-combustion engine was invented and used for automobiles. The two world wars skyrocketed demand for oil as critically-needed energy for internal-combustion engines and steam engines. Notwithstanding, coal remained the central energy source for power generation and heating, since oil had low production and high production costs. After the World War II, large oil fields were discovered successively in the Middle East. Transportation cost was cut with the use of large oil tankers and thus liquid energy appeared. All these innovations made oil a favorable substitute for coal. This was called ‘the fluidization revolution’.


However, fossil energy resources such as oil and coal, which have dominance in the world energy supply, are expected to be exhausted in the foreseeable future, and their reserves are concentrated in a small number of countries. For most of the world, it will be very difficult to continue to import oil or coal without risks. Also, environmental problems like earth warming and acid rain, which are caused by using large amounts of fossil energy, have increased to the extent that the survival of humankind is threatened.


On the other hand, developed countries and the rest of world have made efforts to develop substitute energies such as solar power, wind power and tidal power. High technologies (MHD generation, nuclear fusion, fuel cell power generation, etc.) are expected to be put into practical use in the foreseeable future. This will rapidly transform the world energy environment from a resource-dependent system into a technology-dependent system. Oil producing countries led by the Middle East will no longer enjoy energy wealth, which in the past has been symbolized by a sort of 'resource nationalism'. In contrast, energy-technology holding countries will enjoy energy wealth as they develop clean, new and convenient energy sources (nuclear power, solar power, tidal power, etc.) on the basis of advanced technologies.


As nuclear power, ‘the third fire’, came into use for energy creation in the 1950s it has since become a central energy source for power generation, and changed the scope of the energy landscape. As of  December 1998, 32 countries operated 434 nuclear power plants, producing electricity 2291.41TW(e).h and boasting installed capacity of some 349 million kW. At that time another 36 nuclear power plants were under construction. In terms of capacity, the US with a total of 104 nuclear power plants with a capacity of 96 million kW ranked first, followed by France with a total of 58 power plants boasting capacity of 62 million kW, followed by Japan with 53 nuclear power plants boasting 44 million kW, and Germany with 20 nuclear power plants with a capacity of 22 million kW. Korea took the 8th place with a total of 16 nuclear power plants and a capacity of 13.7 million kW.


Nuclear power is the sole substitutive energy source that has been put into practical use. It can provide a large amount of energy with a small amount of fuel. Unlike fossil fuel, it does not emit environmental pollutants such as carbon dioxide. However, nuclear waste and its retreatment may bring about more serious environmental problems. As shown by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, any safety accident in a nuclear power plant causes many casualties and significant damage, although the probability of this occurrence is extremely low.


While the balance of world energy related power has remained, apparently, quite stable since the Gulf War in 1991, large changes have occurred behind the scene. World energy demand has soared as developing countries, especially China and former ‘communist regimes’ of Eastern Europe have witnessed rapid economic growth. The world energy supply seems to be calm with a stable world oil market. However, oil-holding countries such as those comprising OPEC are still cartelized. Also, the world oil market has essential limits stemming from maldistribution of resource-holding areas, limited resource reserves, and inelastic production.


Global warming issues posed by GR (Green Round) on the basis of ESSD (Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development), developed into an international environmental convention. This led international environmental conventions to be in force, which include the CCC (Climate Change Convention effective as of March 31 1994) regulating energy use and setting energy efficiency standards. As result, energy saving and energy efficiency improvements have become a common task for realizing an environmentally-friendly and purposeful human society.


With these factors in mind, this study looks for policy alternatives for saving energy and improving energy efficiency. To this end, Chapter II explains the energy crisis and the environmental crisis, and forecasts global energy demands. Chapter III analyzes energy savings, energy efficiency improvements, and the central issue of energy shift, as the basic orientation of energy policy. Chapter IV examines the utility and hazards of nuclear power. Finally, Chapter V states conclusive remarks.


II. Energy Crisis and Environmental Crisis


1. The Energy Crisis and an Outlook on Energy Demand


Since humankind first appeared on the earth, global society has presumably consumed 560 billion barrels of oil and 40 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. The amount of energy consumption recorded by global society by 1850 was less than half of the energy consumed from 1850 to 1950. In the upcoming one hundred years (1950-2050), energy consumption is expected to be eight times or ten times higher.


Daily energy consumption per capita was less than 2,000 cal in the primitive era, while daily energy consumption per capita is 230,000 cal in the contemporary era, and is expected to increase even further. The top 15 countries in terms of primary energy consumption are shown in Table 1. Selected countries’ energy consumption per capita and selected countries’ energy consumption per capita in the domestic and industrial sectors are shown in Table 2 and Table 3, respectively. The figures are circa 1997.


 Table 1: The Top 15 Countries in Terms of Energy Consumption and GDP





Primary Energy Consumption


















































Table 2: Selected Countries’ Energy Consumption Per Capita (TOE/head)

















































Energy Statistics Annual Yearbook, Bank of Korea.


Table 3: Comparative Perspective on the Selected Countries’ Energy

Consumption in Domestic and Industrial Sectors (1997)








Population (million)






Energy Consumption in domestic and industrial sectors (million TOE)






Domestic and Commercial Energy Consumption per head (TOE/head)






GDP per capita ($)









As shown in Table 4, in 1990, world demand for primary energy grew at an average annual rate of 2.9%, and by 2005 is expected to be up 43% from the 1990 consumption rate. Oil dependence is expected to decline from 38.6% (1990) to 36% in 2005 because of energy savings and substitutive energy development, while coal, natural gas and nuclear power will increase proportionately. At the present time, the worldwide shift from fossil energy to technology-dependent energies such as nuclear power and substitutive energy is fully underway, while the demand for clean energies such as electricity and natural gas has been soaring.



Table 4: Trend and Outlook of World Energy Consumption





















































Natural Gas













Nuclear Power








































Source: Statistical data, Korea Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, each year.


Energy consumption has shown steady growth since humankind first started using fossil fuel (oil, natural gas, etc.) as power source in the Industrial Revolution. Energy was not considered a limited resource but rather as a resource allowing unlimited development; this outlook, of course, lasted only until the first oil shortage occurred in the 1970s. However, the first oil crisis in 1973 exploded amid the argument that global oil reserves would soon be exhausted 1), and skyrocketing energy prices had a severe impact on the world economy. The second oil crisis in 1979 provided momentum for worldwide awareness of the limited energy available, although the effects of the 1979 shortage were less significant than the first in 19732).

As new oil fields were discovered successively in the 1980s and oil prices stabilized, the world energy crisis subsided and crude oil price declined. The energy saving awareness brought on by the energy crises of the 1970s became diluted and investment in the energy industry showed considerable decline by the late 1980s3).

Assuming that humankind continues to consume fossil fuel at the present rate, oil will be exhausted in 43 years, natural gas in 66 years, coal in 328 years and Uranium in 62 years, as shown by Table 5. Therefore, oil will be exhausted first. Since world oil dependence is 35.5% of the total energy currently consumed, the oil shortage will bring about large political, economic and social disturbances.


Table 5: Reserves of Energy Resources and Their Reserve/Production Ratios (years)




Natural Gas



Confirmed Reserve

137,300 mil. bbl

141 trillion m3

1,075,500 mil. t

2320,000 t

R/P ratio (years)






Source: Statistical data, Korea Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.



According to the analysis by oil researcher Campbell, oil reserves held in oil fields discovered and expected to be discovered is about 1,800 gigabarrel, of which 822 gigabarrel was estimated to have been consumed by 1999. This figure amounts to about the half of the oil reserve.

According to the oil production increase model Campbell created by analyzing the oil production increase trend, in most cases oil production reaches its peak about 40 later than the year in which the oil field is discovered. Accordingly, oil production will start to decline after reaching its peak in 2005.

According to the Campbell’s curve, oil production is expected to decrease by about 3% each year, and decline to half 15 years after reaching its peak. If oil production declines at this rate, it will decrease by more than 10% in 2010.

Oil is an indispensable necessity for transportation, heating, power generation and the petrochemical industry. An oil shortage may bring about oil price hike4), international political conflicts, world economic crisis and national political and economic disturbances, because we are psychologically conditioned to think that an oil shortage may expand even if its true impact is not that severe.

The fact that an increase in oil prices can occur due to a slight oil shortage, or even the possibility thereof, was evidenced by the soar in oil prices in September in 2000. A remarkable example is the hike in gas prices from December 2000 to January 2001 in the US.5)

The California electricity crisis in January 2001 was partly due to the hike in gas prices which skyrocketed the price of electricity produced by gas-powered thermal power plants. California restricted power plants powered by coal and oil in order to prevent environmental pollution, which led electricity production in the state to count primarily upon gas-powered power stations. This was why the hike in US natural gas prices led to skyrocketing electricity prices and the subsequent electricity shortage.


The energy shortage in California in June 2000 led the world and the US to once again become aware of the energy crisis. As temperatures in San Francisco rose to record levels, electricity demand soared. This was of course because the use of industrial and domestic cooling equipment rose and available resources for constructing new power plants in California was lacking. Californians thought that the electricity shortage would occur only during the hot summer season. However, on December 4 2000, the department in charge of electricity and industry in California issued an Emergency Stage 2 Alert. Emergency Stage 2 means that the operating reserve is exhausted to less than 5% of what is considered to be an adequate reserve. This emergency continued for several days.

Emergency Stage 3 (electricity supply suspended alternately for 60 minutes or 90 minutes) was avoided by the intervention of the DOE (Department of Energy) that occurred several days later.

Bill Richardson, Secretary of DOE, ordered the Bonneville Power Administration and the West Power Administration, both of which are owned by the US government, to supply electricity to California. Also, as Gray Davis, the Governor of California, put it, ‘some Californians do not use electricity. I want to light my Christmas tree. However, it is important to join in the efforts to overcome the present situation.’ In an interview with CNN, a spokesman of the chip-maker Intel said that Intel would reduce its lighting wattage by half. And he added that if this did not prove helpful, Intel would work in the dark with all lights off.

Electricity is a necessity more important than water or food in the daily life of nations of the industrial world. Water can be reserved, and even a relatively small reserve can prove adequate. When water is not supplied, reserved water will suffice for several hours or days. Like water, food can also be stockpiled. If the food supply is suspended for several days, no large disturbance would occur. However, electricity cannot be stored. When the electricity supply ceases flowing through the power lines, all devices powered by electricity cease operation.


Contemporary life in the electronic era cannot function without electricity. Since home appliances, communication equipment and heating boilers do not work without electricity, a suspended electricity supply means that our life stops. And since water is supplied by electric power, all things necessary for life, including heating and water, disappear at once.


Table 6: International Comparison of Electricity Consumption per Capita



Korea (2000)

Taiwan (1999)

Japan (1999)

USA (1999)







Source: Statistical data, Korea Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, each year.

The theme here is the relationship between economic growth and energy consumption. An analysis of Germany or other developed countries shows that total energy consumption remains unchanged despite large expanded economic growth and economic scale6). German annual primary energy consumption per capita, which is translated by oil, is about 4.1 tons. This figure has remained almost constant since the mid-1970s. This shows that the correlation between energy consumption and economic growth disappears after economic growth reaches a certain level. In other words, continued economic growth does not bring about a rise in energy consumption, rather, energy consumption is unchanged or even reduced. The point at which energy consumption reaches its peak differs from country to country, and varies according to the level of energy-awareness of its government and population. In Germany or Japan, energy consumption reached the peak in the early 1970s, and has since remained unchanged.


2. The New Crisis: Global Warming

New environmental problems, i.e. global warming and ozone layer destruction, rose as global issues during the late 1980s. It is turned out that the temperature of the Earth rises gradually due to the green-house effect which is caused by green-house gases (GHGs), including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen monoxide and volatile organic compounds, emitted by human production activities. After the Rio Conference in 1992, climate change by global warming quickly attracted worldwide attention and energy problems entered a new phase, now linked to environmental problems. Accordingly, the international community agreed to suppress carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel in order to prevent global warming, and demanded that each country frame a concrete plan to reduce carbon dioxide.


Figure 1:  Damaged Ozone Layer in the Antarctic Atmosphere (shot by NASA)

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions means a corresponding demand for reducing the use of fossil fuel. This demand is fatal to developing countries with industrial structures based on the use of low-quality fossil fuel. In contrast, the developed countries have wider room than developing countries in regard to combating global warming. Developed countries have escaped from heavy industry based on fossil fuel and have accumulated a considerable level of technology in environmental-industrial areas, and enjoy superior substitutive energy technology.

Energy technology requires a long period for development. Gradual systematic improvement in technology rather than innovative technology can be more helpful for environmental preservation and energy savings. Especially, a city cannot be modified or completed within a short period and, therefore, a city must be constructed from the standpoint of energy. Above all, it is very important to plan a city or construct a building in such a way that energy savings and environmentally-friendliness are realized in terms of daily life within the city.

A city concentrating human economic activities has a high population density, destroys the natural environment to create human residences and economic activities and shows a much higher energy consumption per area than in rural areas. If, however, several problems are solved in terms of energy consumption-to-population and energy consumption-to-production ratios, the city is very likely to transform itself into a low energy-consumption area. From the standpoint of energy, the high-rise apartment has favorable aspects in terms of an efficient application of energy systems, including waste-heat recovery systems, linked with the district heat supply system and other integrations of energy systems.

The trend to high-rise buildings in cities will continue. Any country with a high population density (e.g.: Korea: 3rd place in the world) cannot avoid increasingly higher density in its cities. In fact, rural housing using natural materials or low-rise rural housing is better in terms of natural beauty and human health. However, present environmental problems caused by global warming and the exhaustion of natural resources, both of which are problems posed in terms of human survival rather than as improvements in human dwellings. Decisions relating to environment-friendliness require evaluation in terms of both natural resources and energy.

The energy consumption of buildings, which accounts for 20% of total energy consumption, will show gradual increase due to the national demand for ‘more pleasant life’ coupled with a continuous population growth. Tighter energy savings policies, including instituting energy performance certifications for inducing competitive supply and expansion of energy-saving buildings, are necessary for reducing the energy consumption of building.

Table 7:  Electricity Consumption in Korea





Growth rate, %

Composition ratio, %


Growth rate, %

Composition ratio, %






Street light













































Source: Statistical data, Korea Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, by year.


By 2020 the world population will increase to 8 billion and the population in cities will triple. In light of this, the current energy demand-supply pattern cannot be continued. Change in the energy demand-supply system, electrical industry restructuring, and gradual and large improvements in city energy structures are necessary for sustainable development.


I.                   Basic Orientation of Energy Policy


1. Energy Saving


The paradigm for energy saving policy is shown in Figure 2. Since energy is consumed by hardware, it is necessary to increase hardware efficiency to save energy. Lighting with very low efficiency has an efficiency improvement capacity of 30%, boasting a high potential energy saving. In the transportation sector, automobile fuel efficiency should be improved. In the short-term period, restricting excessive driving of automobiles will provide higher room for energy saving. Since domestic home appliances, including air conditioners, refrigerators, et cetera, show a high level of energy efficiency which is almost equal to the energy efficiency level of those produced in the technologically advanced countries, it is necessary to encourage consumers to avoid large-sized products and use such appliances in a rational way. Over the long-term, it is necessary to minimize energy demand by raising high-tech industry energy efficiency improvements, encouraging energy-saving city planning, and introducing price policies and tax redesign for inducing energy saving consumption patterns. The sectors with high potential energy savings and each sector’s energy savings are expected as follows:

Table 8: Estimated Potential Energy Savings (1998)


Facilities Using Energy

Potential Savings

(1,000 TOE)


Consumption for energy (77.5%)

Boiler and furnace

(67% of industrial energy)





     Available savings per facility

Ÿ   73.6 TOE per boiler

Ÿ   530.4 TOE per furnace

Based on the result of technology
guidance in 1998




Other heat facilities

(14% of industrial energy)





(60% of whole electric energy)



     Improve motor efficiency (by average 5%)

Ÿ   87% over 91%


(18% of whole electric energy)



     Improve the efficiency of
high-efficiency lighting equipment

Ÿ   Average 30%(66m/W95m/W)

Heating and cooking

(75% of domestic and commercial energy)



     Save 20% through heat isolation for

 Passenger cars

(55% of land transportation energy)



     Improve elementary driving unit to be equal to Japan

Ÿ   19.5K km/yr 10.0K km/yr











* Excluding potential savings amounting to 7.98 percent of consumption for energy (102.4 million TOE), and converted portion.

Raw materials (22.5%)

naphtha, asphalt (29.7 million TOE)





Figure 2:  Paradigm for Energy Saving Policy


Layer 1 : Improve physical efficiency of hardware.

Layer 2 : Policies inducing reasonable consumption by energy consumers, including price policy.

Layer 3: Policies for minimizing total energy required by society in terms of industrial policy, city planning and way of life.

In Germany energy consumption shows a large decline in accordance with the long-term energy scenario. The scenario assumes that energy consumption will decline each year through energy saving, thereby reducing annual energy consumption per capita to 1.64 oil tons. By 2010, German annual energy consumption per capita will decrease to about 3.7 tons. Also, Germany plans to appropriate about 0.4 tons of regenerated energy for a total energy consumption of 3.7 tons, and therefore, annual fossil energy consumption per capita will be reduced to 3.3 tons.



2. Energy Efficiency Improvement


A. Laws of Energy


The first thought on energy was expressed in the question of how to represent the effects of movement of an object. If there is an object with mass m and velocity v, Descartes and Leibniz argued that energy must be expressed as mv and mv2, respectively. Dalembert explained the former as momentum and the latter as work. Erg (a unit of work or energy used in the c.g.s. system and defined as the work done by a force of 1 dyne when it acts through a distance of 1 centimeter) was adopted as the unit of work, and its practical unit was joule, which is its 107x.

Lanhod (1753-1814), Joule (1818-1889), Mayer (1814-1878) and Helmholtz (1821-1894) proved that heat is a form of energy. According to them, energy is transformed from one form into another, but that this transformation process is necessarily restricted by the First and Second Laws of thermodynamics.

The First Law of thermodynamics was systemized first by Joule in 1840. According to the First Law, when one form of energy is transformed into another, the dispersed energy and produced energy are equal. In other words, energy may change its form but is neither created nor extinguished.

The Second Law of thermodynamics is based on the research by Sadi Carnot. It defines the direction of energy transformation. In other words, heat energy is always transferred from high-temperature object to low-temperature object, and the opposite is impossible. If heat energy is transferred from a low-temperature object to a high-temperature object, it must be accompanied with work. Stated simply, heat is never transferred from low-temperature to high-temperature without being accompanied with work. When energy is transformed from one form into another, 100% transformation is not possible and the transformation therefore causes a loss of energy. For example, the internal-combustion engine used in an automobile coverts only 25% around of the expended combustion energy into the mechanical energy which powers the automobile; the remaining 75% is lost in the air in the form of heat energy.

The efficiency of conversion of heat engines is defined as the ratio of converted energy as compared to the amount of energy input. According to the Second Law, there is no heat engine with 100% efficiency of conversion. The fact that the heat engine’s efficiency of conversion increases means that the amount of work produced relative to same amount of energy also increases. This directly translates to an energy resource savings.

Entropy is a measure for the amount of energy which cannot be further converted into work. The term was coined by the German physicist Clausius in 1868. However, the basic principle related with entropy was already recognized 41 years earlier by the French military officer Carnot. He achieved important results in his research for understanding the operation principle of steam engines. He found that the engine operates because one part of the system is very hot another part is very cold. In other words, energy is converted into work only if this sort of temperature differential exists within the system. This is called as the Third Law of thermodynamics.

Work is generated when energy moves from high concentration to low concentration. More importantly, whenever energy moves -- depending upon temperature differences -- the amount of energy available for the future is reduced. For instance, when water in a dam flows from top to bottom, it generates electricity or turns a waterwheel. However, the water which has already flowed to the bottom cannot perform any more work. These two states are called ‘available energy’ and ‘unavailable energy’, respectively.

The above ‘Law of Energy Conservation’ (meaning the total of movement energy and position energy remains constant) was extended into all systems including sound, optics, electromagnetism and chemical change, proving that dynamic energy, electric energy, magnetic energy, heat energy and chemical energy can be exchanged mutually.

Before the 20th century, physicists focused on the incoming and outgoing amounts of energy across several stages and changes of its form, and did not pay any attention to the absolute value of all energies within the material. By 1905 Einstein (1879-1955) presented the Theory of Special Relativity, arguing that an object moving at velocity has energy , where c = light speed in a vacuum and m = mass at the when the velocity of the object is zero. v is movement speed of the object and is normally lower than c. Expanding the equation into E = m0c2 + 1/2m0v2 + ......, the second term is ‘movement energy’ in Newton’s dynamics. The first term mc2 is called ‘position energy’ which an object holds when it stops. Simply, when a material weighing 1g is converted completely into energy, it becomes energy c2 erg (about 9×1027 erg), thus, if it is expressed in the reverse manner, mass is a form of energy.

B. Quality and Efficiency of Energy


Human beings convert one form of energy into another and vice versa only when they transform energy for the convenience of daily living. As a practical matter, convenience for daily living is dependent upon whether energy is clean, whether it can be transported and stored easily, whether it has high caloric value, or whether it can be used automatically. Any energy satisfying these requirements has high quality, and any energy not meeting such requirements is of low quality.

Ranking energy from high quality to low quality, we begin with mechanical energy-electric energy-chemical energy-optical energy-heat energy, in their listed order. The energy taking precedence over the next-ranked energy can be easily converted into an energy placed under it, while the opposite is more difficult.

Even the same form of energy has different qualities. Some high quality energy has several thousand units of heat, while other lower quality heat energies have several hundred units of temperature. From the standpoint of physics, high quality energy has low emission (increase) of entropy in its usage.

Discussion on energy quality often entails energy concentration, i.e. energy content per volume. Oil energy concentration is 7,887,000 kcal/m3. Heavy hydrogen fuel or uranium fuel, both of which are based upon the premise that nuclear fusion or nuclear fission has an energy concentration one million times to 100 million times higher than that of oil. Hydrogen, the lithium fluoride (Lif) battery and the super flywheel have energy concentrations amounting to a tiny part of the energy concentration of oil. The lead-acid battery, latent heat and compressed air have energy concentration amounts of one-tenth or less of the energy concentration of oil.

Human beings concentrate energy or convert it mutually in order to improve the quality of the energy. Inherently, low-quality energy resources reserved in nature are large while high-quality energy resources reserved in nature are small. In other words, low-quality resources exist ubiquitously across a wide scope while high-quality resources are concentrated in particular areas. Energy reserve estimates, based upon exploration, are ranked as follows: nuclear fusion thorium-232 (Th232) breeding, solar energy, uranium-238 (U238) breeding reactor, coal, heat generated by marine heat-difference, uranium-235 (U235), oil, wind power, ground heat, natural gas, hydropower, and tidal power. This ranking means reserves as resources, not the actual usable amounts realized after being converted to secondary energy. 

On the other hand, the true efficiency of energy must take into account the recovery ratio (%) as useful power versus the energy prior to transformation. The average efficiency of energy converters used in the domestic, commerce, industrial and transportation sectors is as shown in Table 9.

Table 9:  Efficiency of Energy Converters (±10%)

Energy converter

Average efficiency (%)

Energy converter

Average efficiency (%)

Glow lamp


Nuclear reactor


Steam engine


Steam turbine


Solar cell


Liquid fuel rocket


Heat battery


MHD generator


Heat charge converter


Fuel cell (hydrogen-oxygen)


Rotary engine


Electricity storage cell


Fluorescent lamp


Home gas stove


Internal-combustion engine




Solid-state laser


Hydropower turbine


Steam generation


Electric motor


Industrial gas turbine


Electric generator


Aircraft gas turbine







It is often inevitable to lose efficiency in the process of energy conversion. The efficiency of energy usage showed remarkable improvement in the 20th century. For instance, the glow lamp with 100W converted 1W into visible beam and emitted remaining 99W as heat in 1900. Today, the glow lamp with 100W converts more than 5W of energy into beam, showing that the efficiency of energy conversion increased by 400%. The increase in the lighting’s efficiency of energy is simply one example. Many technological innovations were made in other energy converters. These innovations in the 20th century resulted from huge R&D efforts and investment.

Today human economic activities have become increasingly energy-intensive. Patterns in energy use will change over time, and energy consumption will continue to increase. Developing the equipment, devices, materials and technology boasting high energy efficiency may reduce the increase in energy consumption.

Recycling is one way to reduce energy consumption. Steel-making using scrap steel consumes less than one-fourth the energy required than when using crude ore. Paper production using waste paper consumes less than 30% of the energy that is required when paper is made from raw pulp. Converting wastes from by-products generated by agriculture, fishing, forestry, and city wastes into energy can make a large contribution to energy efficiency.

It is in power generation that the most important improvement can be achieved in maximizing energy efficiency. Increased heat efficiency in the generation sector may be achieved by improving and recombining conventional technologies, but developing new generation methods and putting them into practical use will play a larger role. This innovation in energy production technology will allow human beings to enjoy more abundant economic and social activities requiring energy, and provide humankind with freer, more pleasant, more comfortable, and more convenient living.

Case Studies:

1)       Efficiency Improvements of the Electric Motor

The electric motor is a device which consumes a high level of energy and has an energy transformation efficiency level of about 60%. The high-efficiency inductance motor has an efficiency of 3-10% (average 5%) higher than standard electric motors. As an example, using the case of Korea, if all electric motors were to be replaced with high-efficiency motors, Korea would reduce its total power consumption by about 3%, while reducing electric energy consumption by about 5,800 GWH as compared to the amount used in 1998.

Table 10:  Electric Energy Savings Realized Through the Introduction of High-Efficiency the Electric Motor (based on 1998 figures)

(Unit: GWH)

Power consumption

Electric motor’s power consumption

Efficiency improvement ratio

Electric energy saving






This conversion to high-efficiency motors would also reduce peak-usage levels of electricity by 2.3%. Considering that peak-levels of electric energy usage in 1998 was 32,996 MW, a load reduction of about 758 MW, which is almost equivalent to the reduction effect of one nuclear power plant.


2)       Improvement in the Efficiency of Lighting Equipment

At the end of 1998, about 237 million fluorescent lamps were in use in Korea. This figure is comprised of 56 million high efficiency lamps (32W, 26mm) and 181 million low efficiency lamps (40W, 32mm).

Table 11: The Number of Fluorescent Lamps used in Korea

(Unit: 1,000 ea)


Conventional Fluorescent Lamp

Slim Fluorescent Lamp





Survey on the use of lighting equipment

(Korea Electric Power Corporation,
June 1999)



If the conventional low efficiency fluorescent lamp were to be replaced with high efficiency fluorescent lamps (32W, 26mm) and used for 2,400 hours a year, Korea would save 43.2kWh of electric energy per lamp annually, thereby reducing annual power consumption by 7,819GWh and reduce the annual electric load by 1,629MW. This consumption is equal to the energy creation capacity of one nuclear power plant and one coal-powered thermal power plant.

Table 12: Effects Expected from Replacing Conventional Fluorescent Lamps with Slim Fluorescent Lamps


Power consumption

(Including ballast 10W)

Use Hour

Annual Electric Energy Consumption

Saved Electric Energy

Conventional fluorescent lamp





Slim fluorescent lamp






3. The Shift towards Reclaimable Energy

Energy resource researchers disagree on when the next oil shortage will occur. Whether they take pessimistic or an optimistic stance, they all agree that a fossil energy shortage will occur. No matter how many energy saving policies are implemented, it will be difficult to reduce absolute energy consumption on a large scale due to population growth and economic development.

Consequently, a shift towards an energy system based on reclaimable energy (solar energy, fuel cells, hydrogen, wind, ground heat, bioenergy, etc.) is a powerful alternative to solve the energy problem and the environmental problem simultaneously7).  

The energy shift is an attempt to escape from fossil fuel and create an energy system based on reclaimable energy. Unlike fossil energy, reclaimable energy is available throughout the entire planet. Wind power can be utilized by small wind-power generators anywhere in the world. If photocells or heat-concentrating plates with areas less than several tens of square meters are installed, solar energy can be converted into electricity and heat (for heating and hot water). Any hydropower generator installed on a small stream can generate electricity from water flow. Unlike centralized fossil energy resources, reclaimable energy sources create decentralized and distributed technology systems and energy systems.

Even though government takes initiative on a nationwide scale, government alone cannot effect a true energy shift. No matter how many positive policies are established, an effective energy shift cannot succeed without national awareness of its necessity. Reclaimable energy cannot be used through centralized technology, conversely, since reclaimable energy is not concentrated in one place, it can be used adequately through distributed technology and a decentralized control system. Any government’s own efforts for constructing wind-power generator and solar power plants throughout their nation cannot be sustained without countrywide support.

Reclaimable energy can be expanded effectively only if government establishes policies for supporting it and only if it is fully supported by the population. If homeowners and apartment dwellers understand the desperate necessity for an energy resource shift, they will act in concert with government policies for expanding reclaimable energy, install solar power systems, and take other actions. If an enlightened citizenry exists, more wind power generators will be installed than if government acts without the commitment of the population. If more owners of farmland or forestland understand the energy crisis, it will be easier to lease sites for the construction of wind power generators.

For these reasons, the utilization of reclaimable energy should be conducted in a decentralized way, and not in a centralized method under a national electricity monopoly. The establishment of small, local energy corporations would be a first step in establishing a decentralized system.

Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands demonstrate the most energetic efforts toward an energy shift in preparation of a potential crisis of energy deletion. In these countries, civil society and politicians alike are aware that both non-renewable energy resources and climate changes caused by the use of fossil fuel are serious problems. Based on this, they have cut energy consumption and have prepared for a shift to reclaimable energy.


4. Case Studies: Selected Countries’ Energy Policies

The energy policies implemented by these case study countries have been enacted to induce energy savings, improve the efficiency of conventional energy systems (industrial equipment and facilities), reorganize industry structure toward energy-saving, adjust upward energy efficiency limits, expand integrated energy development around cities (for instance, the construction of energy-saving cities, etc.), and establish a demand-supply system of environmentally-friendly new energies (solar energy, fuel cell, hydrogen, wind power, ground heat, nuclear fusion energy, bioenergy, etc.). Followings are brief descriptions of selected countries’ energy policies.


l      USA

The United States plans to invest US$6.3 billion to improve energy efficiency and develop new regeneration energy sources by 2003, and has been developing new regeneration energies such as wind power, solar cells and biomass. Also, the US provides tax incentives: a maximum US$4,000 for the purchase of high fuel-efficiency cars, a maximum US$2,000 for the purchase of high efficiency houses, a maximum 15% or US$2,000 for the purchase of houses using solar power, 20% for the purchase of high efficiency building facilities, and 10% for investment in combined heat and power plants. On the other hand, voluntary agreements include: voluntary agreements for reducing green house gas emissions with primary high energy industrial consumers such as aluminum, cement, electricity, gas, steel and chemical companies, Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), construction of house with efficiency increased by 50%, reconstruction of 15 million houses for improving their energy efficiency by no less than 30%, energy savings in public sector, and improvement of energy use-efficiency in the public sector. Based on the ESPCs (energy savings performance contracts), the US aims to expand the use of high efficiency lighting equipment and improve energy efficiency in buildings by 25%.


l      Germany

In Germany, reclaimable energy accounts for 2% of primary energy and 5% of electricity. The German government has implemented a long-term plan to double the two figures by 2010, and then increase them by 10% each year, with a goal of reaching 30% in 2030 and 50% in 2050. This plan is to prepare for exhaustion in fossil energy resources, and is closely tied with the goal of reducing the emission of green house gases. The German government plans to reduce green house emissions by 25% in 2005 (compared with 1990), and then further decrease these emissions by no less than 10% every ten years, with the target of reducing emissions by no less than 80% by 2050.

Climate Protection Using Reclaimable Energy (October 1999) issued by a trust from the German Ministry of Environment shows a scenario covering 1995 to 2050. According to the scenario, total energy consumption in 2050 will decrease by 40% and reclaimable energy will account for 60% of total energy consumed. If things go as described in the scenario, Germany's annual emission of green house gases will decrease from the current 890 million tons to 657 million tons in 2010, 460 million tons in 2030 and 200 million tons in 2050, thereby declining by 80%. The German government divides this whole process into following two stages:

For the first 15 to 20 years of Stage 1, emphasis will be put on energy savings and the expansion of combined heat and power. For the remaining 30 years, the focus will be put on expanding reclaimable energy. In the Stage 1, combined heat and power as percentages of electricity production will increase from the current 9% to 25-30%, while reclaimable energy as a percentage of total primary energy will be only 10%.

In the Stage 2, however, both wind power and solar power as percentages of total reclaimable energy will skyrocket, and electricity produced by reclaimable energy as a percentage of total electricity consumption will rise to 63% by 2050. For this expansion of reclaimable energy over a long period, the German government introduced institutional mechanisms to stimulate entry into the reclaimable energy market by enacting the ‘Electricity Purchasing Act’ in 1990 and the ‘Act on Reclaimable Energy’ in April 2000. With help of these enactments, Germany shows rapid growth in the use of reclaimable energy including wind power, solar power and biomass.


l      Denmark

Denmark prepares for the shift to reclaimable energy under the awareness that such a shift is desperately needed, although the country does not import oil because of its own oil fields in the North Sea. Denmark has already used wind power generation to produce electricity, which accounts for about 10% of their total electricity consumption. The country has a plan to supply 50% of total electricity through wind power generation by 2030, and is making ambitious efforts to expand their wind power generation capabilities. Additionally, Denmark engages in programs for expanding the use of solar energy and biomass.

l      Australia

Australia has improved its hardware energy efficiency by expanding and tightening minimum efficiency limits and energy labeling, and stimulates efficiency improvement in a range of processes, including design, construction and operations for improving energy efficiency in domestic and commercial sectors.


l      Japan

Japan focuses on tightening energy saving standards. The Japanese government has improved energy efficiency by 8–30% in home appliances and OA equipment. Also, the Japanese government has selected about 3,500 factories with high energy-consumption and has provided check, guidance and advice on improving the energy saving status of these factories.


l      Korea

In Korea, energy consumption will increase by 3% each year, and therefore, annual energy consumption per capita will rise from 4.02 oil tons in 2000 to about 6.5 tons in 2010.

Since the Korean government plans to supply fossil energy for a total energy consumption of 6.5 tons per capita, this means that by 2010 Korea’s per capita energy consumption will be almost double that of Germany. Thus Korea is currently headed in the wrong direction in terms of shifting towards sustainable energy systems based on reclaimable energy.

According to the long-term plan for electricity demand-supply through 2015 (this plan has been drafted by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and KEPCO), electricity consumption will grow at annual average rate of 3-7%, and expects annual electricity production per capita to reach 10,000kWh by 2015. The demand-supply plan based on this continued growth shows that Korea has not prepared at all for the likely prospect of energy exhaustion.

60% of the total energy consumed in Korea is dependent on oil, all of which is imported. If the oil shortage comes to pass in 10 or 20 years, Korea will be exposed and highly vulnerable. Therefore, it is urgent for Korea to reduce dependence on fossil energy and prepare for an energy shift on the basis of reclaimable energy. However, to date Korea has made no preparation for this energy shift.



I. The Usefulness of Nuclear Energy and the Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants

1. The History of Nuclear Power


It was in the 20th century that mankind discovered the enormous energy in the atomic nucleus and started to use the energy of the atom. When Roentgen discovered the x-ray, scientific knowledge on material structure started to accumulated. As Einstein’s ‘principle of mass energy equivalence’ was explained, the micro-interpretation of material became possible. Subsequently, Chadwick discovered the neutron and it in turn made nuclear reaction possible, thus accelerating the development of nuclear technology. In 1942, uranium nucleus fission chain reaction succeeded for the first time in the world in the reactor CP-1 installed in the University of Chicago and designed by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi.

The year 1941 saw Japan attack Pearl Harbor, starting a massive war with the United States. There were various reasons why the US accelerated their nuclear research during the war. Primarily, the US government thought that it must create the atomic bomb to win the war with Germany, as intelligence reports confirmed that Hitler had instituted a nuclear program and it was paramount that the US develop their device first. Although nuclear power was introduced to humankind in the form of the atomic bomb under the unhappy situation of World War II, many scientists believed that if nuclear power was used for peace, it would be very helpful for humankind.

Research for using nuclear power for peace began to increase in 1951, when US president Eisenhower advocated the ‘peaceful use of nuclear power’ at the UN, and US nuclear power technology was introduced to other countries. This stimulated many other nations to start R&D on their own nuclear power generators. In 1954, the former USSR started the operation of their first nuclear power plant.

In 1956, the Calder Hall reactor in the UK started commercial operation for the first time in the world, followed by the US Shipping Port reactor in 1957, thereby vitalizing the nuclear power industry.

In Korea, the TRIGA Mark-II reactor for research started operating in 1962, initializing Korea's nuclear research. Gori 1, the first nuclear power plant set for construction in 1971, started commercial operations in 1978.

In the 1960s, nuclear power was called the ‘third fire’, leading the boom in constructing nuclear power plants. By the 1970s, the nuclear power plant was considered to be a power system which could supply massive energy and reduce environmental pollution, unlike the conventional thermal power plant.

The 4th Congress of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) held in August 1990, and the 2nd World Climate Conference held in November 1990 discussed the regulation and reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, and commented that substituting nuclear power generation for thermal power generation would substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Also, the G-7 Summit (Paris Summit in July 1989 and Houston Summit in July 1990) announced in a statement that it would play an important role in reducing hazardous gases causing the greenhouse effect. The UN Environmental Development Conference held in Brazil in June 1992 agreed to stabilize the emission of green house gases such as carbon dioxide at the level of 1990 by 2000.



2. Measures for Stabilizing Nuclear Power Plants and
the Treatment of Radioactive Waste


Unlike thermal power, nuclear power is not accompanied by fuel combustion. It is a clean energy without emitting pollutants (such as carbon dioxide). Nuclear power can produce high quality energy (electricity) with a slight amount of fuel, and it is a reclaimable energy.

However, if an accident occurs, hot nuclear 'soup' can be released, causing great human and environmental damage. This is the most significant problem posed by nuclear power, and one which must be solved. As with any piece of machinery or device, even a perfect design, coupled with perfect construction and perfect operation, certain failures or accidents cannot be avoided. Even if an accident occurs, it is very important to limit the scope of the damage immediately and prevent the resulting damage from being expanded. To this end, nuclear power plants must have the following safety measures:

First, strict quality control and ample safety design must be adopted. Ample design is used to ensure that each piece of equipment can endure the forces and temperatures applied to it during operation. High-performance high-quality materials must be used under strict quality control.

Second, an interlocking system must be used. Nuclear power generation must have a system for defending its facilities to prevent any artificial fault or malfunction from occurring. One example of an effective interlocking system is a design which assures that the incomplete closing of one door prevents the next door from being opened.

Third, nuclear power plant design must employ safety function known as 'fail safe'. This ensures that safety is automatically secured if any equipment fails. For example, if a piece of equipment fails, it would be shut down immediately and automatically. By this same measure, if pipe suffers a sudden change in pressure -- indicating that a failure has occurred -- the valves connected to the pipe would automatically close. The reactor would always monitor its pressure, temperature and power, and -- whenever any function abnormality is detected -- it would automatically adjust to its original status. If recovery to the operational original status is not successfully complete, the entire reactor would shut down. Also, numerous cooling systems must be provided in preparation for emergency situations. For safety protection, no fewer than two systems having the same function must be installed independently within the reactor. This is the concept of multi-safety defense. Nuclear power systems must be designed to deal with every possible type of failure and have systems in place to counter the failure and/or shut the entire reactor down automatically.

Fourth, a multi-defense wall must be installed to ensure that radioactive materials remain sealed within the reactor container under any circumstances. The first defense wall is the safety pipe which covers the inner pipe containing nuclear fuel, and thus prevents any radiation leakage. The second defense wall is the reactor container, which contains the nuclear fuel bunch and the reactor cooling agent; this container should have a thickness of at least 20cm. The third defense-wall is a thick concrete wall surrounding the reactor. This wall effectively blocks any radiation leakage from the reactor. The fourth defense-wall is a steel plate inside the reactor building, consisting of a dome-type thick steel structure enveloping the entire space containing the reactor cooling agent, safety systems and the ancillary systems. The fifth defense-wall is the concrete reactor building, which should be reinforced concrete 76-120cm thick, surrounding the entire outer portion of the inner steel plate. Like the inner steel plate, the reinforced concrete is domed, and is called the 'shed' building or reactor building. Under all circumstances, all radioactive materials are confined within this building.

Beyond this, any form of radioactive waste must be converted into a stabilized form of waste and then disposed of. Radioactive waste is defined as 'scraping-targeted', material which is any radioactive material or any other material which has been contaminated by it. Radioactive waste is classified as being gaseous, liquid or solid, depending upon its form. All gaseous waste from the nuclear power plant must be stored in sealed tanks. When the radioactivity of the gas has been reduced to a safe level, the gas is then discharged into the air through high-performance filters. As added precautions, high-sensitivity measuring equipment must be installed at the outlet ducts to detect any radiation leaks, the detection of which would sound an alarm and seal the outlet. Liquid waste, such as washing water, is divided into clean water and dregs. The clean water is recycled or discharged through drains equipped with measuring equipment. The dregs are converted into a stabilized solid form with the use of cement, and sealed into steel drums. Solid wastes, such as the work clothing, gloves or overshoes used by operators or service personnel, or parts replaced for maintenance, are compressed into a small volume and sealed into steel drums. Radioactive waste is disposed of by either low-level disposal or high-level disposal. Low-level disposal consists of burying the radioactive waste, while high-level disposal buries the radioactive waste deep underground or within caves dug into a mountainside or deep into the seabed. Selection of the disposal method differs depending upon the characteristics of the relevant country.

The Lamanche disposal plant (which started operations in 1969) and the Robe disposal plant (1992) in France, the Derick disposal plant (1959) in UK, and the Biti disposal plant (1962), the Richland disposal plant (1965) and the Banwell disposal plant (1971) use low-level disposal. Japan started to dispose of nuclear waste in late 1992 and uses low-level disposal. Having used an old rock salt mine in Asse to dispose of low-level waste on a trial basis, Germany has constructed a high-level disposal plant in an abandoned iron mine in Konrad and in a rock salt layer in Goreleben. Sweden has operated a disposal plant in a submarine cave in Posmark since 1988. In this way, various countries have adopted disposal methods suitable for their own situations.

In spite of the above-cited safety measures and nuclear waste disposal methods, when the nuclear disaster at the Three Mile Island plant (1979) and the Chernobyl disaster  (1986) occurred, nuclear power generation encountered a severe crisis. Especially, the Chernobyl accident caused the developed countries to have second thoughts on nuclear power generation and posed the possibility of a large nuclear power plant accident, along with the severe economic and environmental problems which such an accident would cause. A nuclear power plant does not have a generation unit price lower than that of a thermal power plant. Due to the cost incurred by nuclear waste treatment and power plant closure, nuclear power generation has no economic efficiency. Even though a nuclear power plant barely emits air-polluting substances, serious environmental problems occur from nuclear waste and its retreatment.

Consequently, developed countries, excluding France and Japan, have tended to avoid using nuclear energy as power source since the late 1980s, and have sought to develop energy-saving technology to improve energy efficiency, and to employ substitutive energies such as solar power. Many large reactor builders have ceased operation or have turned to other types of projects. The recent focus has been devoted to new energy technologies such as the fuel cell and solar power. No one can deny that the nuclear power plant is not immune from the possibility of large accidents or that nuclear waste disposal is very difficult.

For these reasons, many countries which have pushed forward with nuclear power generation have decided to give it up. Even Canada decided to gradually give up nuclear power generation despite the development of the heavy water reactor. Regardless of the world trend and the risks associated with nuclear waste, KEPCO has expanded its nuclear power generation on a large scale. Although 16 reactors are currently being operated, by 2010 about 30 reactors will be producing electricity -- and spewing nuclear waste. If KEPCO wholeheartedly considers the public interest of the entire nation of Korea, it must change its focus on nuclear power generation, which brings with it such serious problems. In this same vein, it cannot be accepted that the efforts for concentrating hard coal-powered thermal power plants -- with the capacity of producing several million kilowatts -- on a small island like Youngheungdo are favorable to the public interest.

Expanded nuclear power generation serves as a large obstacle to an energy shift, in that it can lead us to believe that conventional energy systems can continue, and that an energy shift is not necessary. In this respect, dependence on nuclear power may amplify the chaos that will be brought about by energy crisis. Nuclear power generation must ultimately be abandoned. But until then it must be operated in such a way that guarantees the safety of the public and the environment.

3. The Suspension of Construction of Nuclear Power Plants, and the Need for Their Privatization

In Korea's case, nuclear power plants must be privatized for the national public interest. Separating nuclear power plant operators from the regulators -- which are now overseen by the same government ministry -- can minimize the risks associated with nuclear power generation and the problems of nuclear waste, and further, this allows a gradual closure of the nuclear power plants.

Many people argue that the state must operate nuclear power plants due to the danger presented by nuclear power generation, and consider that if a dangerous business like nuclear power generation is transferred to the private sector, then private firms -- seeking only profit -- would not perform thorough safety controls, thereby increasing the risk of the occurrence of a large accident.

However, accident risk is much greater when operator and regulator are one and the same or are connected. In Europe, the governments of France and the UK both operate and regulate their nuclear power plants, while Germany and Switzerland have nuclear power plants which are operated by the private sector and regulated by the state. Accidents related to nuclear power generation have occurred much more often and on a much larger scale in France and UK (without separation between operation and supervision) than in Germany and Switzerland (with separation between operation and supervision).

In Germany, nuclear power plants are private generation companies under thorough government supervision. Inspectors can visit nuclear power plants for inspection at any time, and can request and review all data related to safety procedures. Local government as well as the central government supervises the nuclear power plants. Additionally, nonofficial environmental organizations can visit nuclear power plant for inspection upon request through the local government. With this thorough regulation and supervision in place, private generation companies have no choice but to perform careful safety controls, leading to a near-perfect safety record.

However, in France -- without separation between operations and supervision -- a fast breeder reactor (FBR), which has proven to be very dangerous, was constructed under government leadership and the completed FBR frequently encountered accidents both small. Despite these frequent accidents, the French government has repeatedly attempted to re-operate FBR rather than closing it down. Finally, after a member of the French Green Party became part of the coalition cabinet as Minister of Environment, the FBR was closed. The French example shows that no separation or limited separation between operations and supervision can bring about large-scale accidents, and further illustrates that the enthusiastic intervention of a government ready to expand nuclear power can be an invitation to disaster.

The Monju FBR accident in 1997 and the nuclear-critical accident in 1999, both of which occurred in Japan, did not happen because a private generation company was careless in safety control, but rather because the two projects were joint efforts between the government and private generation companies which the Japanese government did not thoroughly supervise. All nuclear power plants in Japan are operated by private generation companies. However, the Monju FBR and the plan for the disposal and recycling of nuclear waste are run by collaboration between the private sector and government. Notwithstanding, the large accidents occurred in the government-involved projects, rather than in the nuclear power plants run by the private generation companies.

The possibility of accidents related to nuclear power generation is influenced largely by the governmental stance toward nuclear power generation. Countries such as Korea, Japan, France or the former USSR, that show no neutral stance toward nuclear power generation and try to support and expand nuclear power energetically in terms of national strategy, have a tendency to ignore or disparage the associated risks. This tendency may increase the possibility of accidents. Chernobyl was a disaster generated by such a tendency.

It does not come as a surprise that large nuclear accidents occurred in France and Japan where nuclear power generation had been expanded in consideration of energy demand-supply or military strategy. For this reason, the state must take a neutral stance toward nuclear generation, and a clear separation between operation and supervision is necessary. This can be obtained only by privatizing nuclear power plants.

In Korea, nuclear power plants have been operated by the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and supervised by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS), which is under the Ministry's control. In a broader sense, operation and supervision have been performed by one organization. In this case, supervision becomes careless. Even if supervision is performed well, its results are very likely to be concealed. Accidents in nuclear power plants have often been concealed or were delayed in announcement. This is because operator and supervisor are not clearly separated8).

If supervision continues in this manner despite the high risks of nuclear power generation, large accidents will occur in the future. If the Korean government or KEPCO wholeheartedly respects the public interest, they must revise the entire nuclear power generation policy and introduce epoch-making measures for the currently existing nuclear power plants.

In Korea, nuclear power generation must not be further expanded beyond the 16 reactors9) currently in operation. It is desirable that all reactors in operation be privatized in order to assure thorough supervision through a clear separation of operator from regulator. If private generation companies operating nuclear power plants construct nuclear waste treatment plants under the thorough control of the government, accident risk will be reduced and justified concerns of the population in the vicinity of the proposed treatment plant will be reduced. The government will simply need to evaluate the candidate site of the treatment plant selected by the private generation company, and thus maintain a neutral governmental stance. If the relevant site is found to be favorable, the government's role will be limited to persuading the neighboring population or conducting arbitration between the neighboring population and the private generation company.

With the eventual shift away from nuclear power in mind, the initial stages of the privatization process -- one factor of being the sale of the nuclear power plants to private generation companies -- both the government and the private generation company must agree upon the number of years the nuclear power plant is to be operated before it is permanently shut down. This must be done during the early stages of negotiations in order to prevent any possibility of later dispute based upon the operational duration of the plant in question. Once agreement has been made on the duration, or life-time, of operations, the nuclear power plants will eventually be shut down one by one. Because any reactor completed recently will meet its end in about 30 years, within three decades nuclear power plants would no longer be seen in Korea.

Selling off the generation sector of KEPCO to foreign capital or a domestic chaebol may cause many problems, considering the right of public domain over electricity and successful energy policy. The paradigm of the Korean electricity industry must be changed as follows: Excluding the 'pure' electricity sector, all other subsidiaries and the nuclear power sector should be privatized decisively. KEPCO should continue to run the hydropower plants and the thermal power plants in accordance with the public interest (a stable electricity supply). At the same time, KEPCO’s distribution business should be assigned to public companies controlled by local government. If local self-government owned corporations engage in the distribution business, then reclaimable energy use, which can best be realized under a dispersed and decentralized system, will be significantly increased.

In the light of the Korean electricity industry structure or local governments, it is never easy for nuclear power plants to be privatized or for KEPCO’s distribution business to be transferred to public companies controlled by local government. However, if KEPCO is completely privatized by a current a government plan under the present energy situation, an effective energy shift will be blocked, leading Korean society to chaos 10 or 20 years from now when fossil energy becomes scare. Consequently, even if KEPCO's immediate privatization is not necessary for the survival of Korea, it is then recommended that the restructuring of the electricity industry should be carried out in order to achieve an effective energy shift. Only by doing so will Korea will be able to overcome the expected upcoming fossil energy crisis.

IV. Conclusion

The Cold War conflict, which was based on ideological differences, disappeared almost completely with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, while new crises (some of which had laid dormant during the Cold War era) including terrorism, regional conflict, religious conflict, world economic recession and energy crisis, have come to the forefront.

The energy crisis, the theme of this paper, is more serious than economic crisis in terms of its depth and direct-indirect far-reaching effects. Additionally, the energy crisis will drive the world economy into a blind alley. An energy crisis will not be limited to the countries with insufficient energy resources, but will be expanded immediately to the countries with rich energy resources. Although ultimate value of globalization is to improve the welfare of humankind, a ‘globalized’ energy crisis will lead, ironically, to environmental disaster and a devastation of human society. Consequently, a series of efforts to forecast and prevent an energy crisis is a universal concern of the world citizenry, whether they live in a developed country or a developing country, and whether they may live in Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America or Africa.

The energy policies of each country in this new century must encourage energy savings, improved efficiency in conventional energy systems (industrial facilities and equipment), the redesign of industry to a system based on energy savings, an upward adjustment of energy efficiency regulations, an expansion of integrated energy projects in cities (e.g.: construction of energy saving cities), and the establishment of a demand-supply system for environmentally-friendly new energies (solar power, fuel cells, hydrogen, wind power, ground heat, nuclear fusion, bioenergy, etc.). In the future, energy prices will continue to rise as external costs (carbon tax, etc.) as well as environmental costs will rise. It will be inevitable for all industries to introduce high-efficiency energy systems (e.g.: high-efficiency electric motors, high-efficiency lighting systems, etc.). In regard to housing and construction, comprehensive measures are required that include energy savings, environmental preservation, utilization of natural energy (sun, water, wind, etc.), recycling of construction resources, and measures against waste.

It should be noted that industrial countries’ desire and fierce competition for fossil energy sources (oil, natural gas, etc.) may lead to world conflict. Why? The energy sources are located locally and limited, while they are indispensable for supporting industrial society. No matter how remotely they are reserved, the energy sources still must be extracted and transported. Also, the industrialized countries have no choice but to make desperate efforts to obtain fossil energy. As a result, international conflict in the areas with reserved energy will continue to break out unless energy systems within the industrial society changes.

To achieve long-term world peace as well as the short-term goal of stabilized energy demand-supply, it is absolutely necessary to reduce energy consumption through savings and efficiency improvement, and to replace fossil energy sources with reclaimable energies. Considering that fossil energy severely destroys the environment, the importance of finding substitutive energy, i.e. the importance of energy shift, is even more obvious. 

Expanding reclaimable energy technology for encouraging an energy shift may be a solution for saving energy, improving energy efficiency and reducing the possibility of world conflict. Fortunately, reclaimable energy is ubiquitous and, unlike fossil energy, does not need mega-technology, mega-power or a mega-market. Ultimately, only energy demand-supply needs anti-globalization, in other words, regionalization, to ensure that global society continues to develop with an environmentally-friendly human civilization.

*  Yang-Taek Lim : Hanyang University, College of Economics and Finance, Department of Economics, 17 Haengdang-dong, Seongdong-Gu, Seoul 133-791, Korea,

1) Forecast on exhaustion of fossil fuel often uses the formula put forward in the Resources and Man (1969) by M. King Hubbert. According to the estimated reserve in 1990, it will be possible to use fossil fuel for more than the upcoming one hundred years. Since the estimated reserve increased by much more than calculated in the past, the period allowing fossil fuel consumption is now estimated to be longer than was previously determined. The estimated reserve of fossil fuel in 1950 was only 30btoe (billion tons of oil equivalent), while the current estimated reserve is over 250 btoe.


2) Energy consumption spiraled downward in the 1970s when the world was hit by the oil crisis. Energy consumption in the US and Japan was down 24% and 32%, respectively.


3) In the US, government support in energy efficiency development stopped or declined in late 1980 when the oil crisis ended. This was also true of consumers. According to a survey conducted in the early 1980s, more than 30% of Americans ranked fuel efficiency as their number one concern in automobile selection, while the figure was reduced to 3% in 1987. In 1982, the average fuel efficiency of Japanese-made cars was 30.5mpg, which declined to 27.3mpg in 1988.

4) When OPEC decided to reduce daily oil production by several hundreds of thousands of barrels in September 2000, crude oil prices increased from the US$20 range to over US$35. This was perhaps due to panic, fed by the fear of an oil shortage rather than an actual oil shortage. The production cut-back decided upon by OPEC was slight compared to daily world oil consumption. In 2000, daily average oil production was over 60 million barrels, of which 600,000 barrels comprise less than 1% of total daily oil production. Therefore, the oil price hike in September 2000 was not because of an actual oil shortage but because of a panic-induced fear of an oil shortage.


5) The natural gas produced only in the US and Canada is supplied to the US natural gas market. US natural gas production has decreased progressively after reaching its peak in the early 1970s, while US import of natural gas has increased gradually from the 1980s. Most of the natural gas imported is produced in Canada. As Canada limited natural gas exports because of increased natural gas consumption in the country, the US experienced a shortage in natural gas supplies, and hiked natural gas prices even though the gas shortage was slight compared to total consumption. Consequently, natural gas prices skyrocketed from US$2 per 1000 ft3 to more than US$10 per 1,000 ft3 early 2001.

6) Comparing the German national income in the early 1970s and current Korean national income shows that the two have no large differential. However, Germany has not shown any increase in energy consumption since the 1970s, while the Korean government expects economic growth to continue and foresees that energy consumption will grow in pace with economic growth.

7) Nuclear energy is a very useful reclaimable energy, but is hazardous. It will be discussed in detail in Chapter IV.

8) For more information on the examples of concealed or announcement-delayed accidents in nuclear power plants, see Lee Pil-Ryul, Looking for Energy Alternatives, Creation and Critics, 1999 (Energy dae-an-eul cha-ja-so, Changjak gwa bipyungsa, 1999).

9) Korea took the first step toward nuclear power generation when Gori 1 was scheduled for construction in Yangsan-gun Gyongnam in 1971, and started operation in 1978. As of February 2000, 4 plants in Kijang-gun, Busan, 4 plants in Gyungju-shi Gyungbuk, 4 plants in Younggwang Jonnam, and 4 plants in Uljin Gyungbuk were in operation. The total installed capacity is 13,720,000 kW, making Korea the eighth-largest user of nuclear power. The installed capacity of nuclear power in 1998 accounted for 27.6% of Korea's total generation capacity. Nuclear power generation in 1994 was 586,500 million kWh, accounting for 35.5% of Korea's total generation. In short, over one-third of electricity used in Korea is produced by nuclear power generation. In addition to the above 16 plants, Korea is constructing additional 4 plants, and plans an additional 8 plants by 2006.

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