By Christine Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday the government will continue to phase out nuclear-generated electricity, following a public opinion survey that dealt a blow to his plans to do so.
"We will completely stop all plans for the construction of new nuclear reactors like the government previously stated," Moon said in a statement distributed to reporters by his office.
"The government will also step up usage of natural gas and renewables in order to maintain its stance of phasing out nuclear-generated power."
Moon's statement came after a public opinion survey on Friday found a majority of almost 60 percent in favour of resuming the stalled construction of two reactors.
The president asked his supporters on Sunday to respect the outcome of the survey, which he called a "wise and intelligent" response.
Completing the two reactors could mean a reversal of a strategy to slowly reduce nuclear energy's share of the power mix, and also significantly eat into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand of the world's second-largest consumer of the fuel.
With the two reactors set to be completed in October 2021 and October 2022, according to state-run nuclear operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power [KRHYDR.UL], Moon said safety standards for nuclear plants would be ramped up.
Moon also reiterated his plan to shut down the Wolsong No. 1 nuclear reactor, the nation's second-oldest, once the government confirms stability in energy supplies.
The 697-megawatt reactor in southeastern South Korea was taken offline in 2012 after reaching its 30-year lifespan, but the regulator approved a restart a few years ago until 2022.
South Korea has 24 nuclear reactors, supplying a third of its electricity.
(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)