South Korea’s efforts to export its domestically-designed small nuclear power reactors have borne fruit.
The Ministry of Science, ICT, & Future Planning (MSIP) announced on Sept. 2 that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), designer of the System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART), has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia to conduct the Pre-Project Engineering (PPE) program before constructing SMART reactors. This is the first project of the “SMART Partnership MOU,” which was signed at the time when President Park Guen-hye made a tour to the Middle East in March.
Under the agreement, the two countries will jointly conduct a preliminary study to review the feasibility of constructing SMART reactors, build two SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia, push ahead with the additional construction, and cooperate on the commercialization and promotion of the SMART reactor to third parties. Once the construction is completed, as agreed, SMART reactors, which have been developed with a large budget from 1997, will be exported for the first time in 20 years. Park Jae-moon, head of the Office of R&D Policy at the MSIP, said, “Starting from Dec. this year, the two countries will carry out the PPE project for 39 months, and make the preliminary safety analysis report. If Saudi Arabia finally decides to build SMART reactors after three years, we will submit the report and get the approval for construction.”
As the agreement stated, Korea and Saudi Arabia will make the joint investment of a total US$100 million (118.4 billion won) – US$30 million (35.52 billion won) each year for three years.
Park said, “Saudi Arabia will supply 20 percent of the nation’s electric power from nuclear power plants, and 15 to 20 percent of them from small nuclear power reactors by 2040. Since we have recently decided on the possible site and focused on training researchers in the related sectors, the final export is more likely to happen.”
Considering the fact that the possible SMART reactors construction site is inland, the MSIP and KAERI will introduce an air cooling system, which is different from the existing water cooling system that is authorized as the standard design.