Former U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu said Thursday that South Korea's current policy to do away with nuclear power is not a viable solution, and called for more concerted efforts to develop renewable energy.
"Nuclear is better than natural gas or coal... it's a job of the government to educate the public and to weigh pros and cons of the health and economy," the former official appointed by President Barack Obama said during a forum hosted by South Korea's top engineering school Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).
The Moon Jae-in administration earlier declared it will gradually curtail nuclear-generated power and replace it with more environmentally safe sources, such as solar and wind power. It hopes to raise the proportion of renewable energy to 20 percent of power produced by 2030.
The Nobel prize-winning physicist said the Seoul government's nuclear policy does not directly lead to the use of renewable energy as it focuses on burning coal.
"Research in chemical energy storage through novel electrochemistry may lead to solutions, but for the next half century, we will need additional energy-on-demand, carbon-free sources of energy from proven technologies," Chu pointed out.
He also stressed the role of science in achieving a sustainable future, citing the case of the United Kingdom which has successfully built wind power.
"While science, innovation and technology will no doubt lead to better solutions, sound government policies are needed to advance the transition to carbon-free energy needed to achieve a more sustainable world," he said.
Chu is known for his research at Bell Labs and Stanford University regarding the cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. He served as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013.