From the end of this month, a bidding war to win a Dutch nuclear research project worth 600 billion won (US$534.05 million), which is called the “PALLAS Project,” will begin in earnest again, five years after it had been stopped.
According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on July 5, the Netherland’s Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) held a pre-bid conference for the project targeting nuclear energy organizations and companies in numerous countries, including the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), at the beginning of June, and said that it would begin the pre-qualification (PQ) of bidders from the end of July. The NRG has advanced the start of the bidding from the end of this year.
The PALLAS project is to change over from the current 45MW High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten, the Netherlands, to an 80MW new research reactor, as the lifespan of the existing research reactor, which is currently operated by the NRG, will end next year. It is a large project worth €400 to €500 million (US$444.16 to US$555.2 or 499.01 billion to 623.77 billion won). Once completed, it will supply 60 percent of the demand for radioactive isotopes in Europe and 20 to 30 percent of its demand in the world.
The Netherlands began an international tender in 2007 and selected Argentina’s INVAP as the preferred bidder in 2009. However, the country decided to completely cancel the decision without stating a cause, and started the bidding once again from scratch.
It is said that the NRG has already secured design costs of nearly €80 million (US$88.83 million or 99.8 billion won) from the Dutch government, and will send invitations for bids by the end of Sept. It will accept bid applications until the end of this year, and choose a preferred bidder in March next year.
An official from the KAERI said, “We went down to Argentina’s INVAP last time, but will make every effort to win orders this time. It is not the official fixed schedule, so we are carefully preparing the process.”
Industry watchers say that Korea is in an advantageous position for winning the contract this time, as the consortium of KAERI, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, and Hyundai Engineering received an order for an experimental atomic reactor improvement project called the “OYESTER Project” from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands in Nov. last year, and the government is giving full support.
Korea has steadily exported research reactor technology, such as the Jordanian research reactor system in 2009, the Thai research reactor improvement project in 2009, the Malaysian research reactor digital system construction project in 2012, and the Dutch OYSTER project in 2014. However, there has not yet been a deal surpassing 150 billion won (US$133.51 million). The size of the PALLAS Project is expected to be four times larger than the Jordanian one, and 25 times larger than the OYSTER Project worth €19 million (25 billion won). Accordingly, if the nation wins the order it will be a bigger deal than all of the others put together.
Meanwhile, President Park Geun-hye held a summit with King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander at the Presidential office of Cheongwadae in Nov. last year while singing the OYSTER Project, and said, “Let’s forge a close partnership in all areas of the nuclear and scientific technology sectors between Korea and the Netherlands.”