The South Korean government has decided to promote nuclear technology exports to revive the domestic nuclear power industry, which is having difficulty due to the nuclear phase-out policy.
For starters, the focus of the nuclear export strategy will shift from construction of nuclear power plants overseas to the full cycle of nuclear power generation ranging from plant operation to maintenance and decommissioning.
The government will actively help small and medium-sized companies move into the global nuclear power market and export their technologies. Until now, state-run nuclear power companies, such as Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., and conglomerates, including Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., have been the main players in the nuclear export industry.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced its new export strategy during a meeting held at the head office of Korea Trade Insurance Corp. in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, on Sept. 19.
The global nuclear power market is divided into the new nuclear plant construction market, which is expected to grow to US$100 billion (119.24 trillion won) over the next 20 years, and the full-cycle market, which is about the same in market size.
However, South Korean nuclear power companies have focused largely on building commercial nuclear power plants so far and have rarely won post-construction orders for nuclear fuel supply, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, and replacement of components.
The Korean government has decided to target the full cycle market as the domestic nuclear power industry has accumulated experience and expertise in not only construction but also operation and maintenance from the Barakah nuclear plant project. Domestic companies are in the stage of advancing technologies for decommissioning since they do not have experience in this field yet.
Smaller companies and medium-sized companies account for 82 percent and 9 percent of the nuclear power companies in South Korea, but big corporations have dominated exports. Among the 92 major nuclear power equipment producers in the country, only 14 have the experience of exporting their products to global markets.
The government has increased next year’s research and development (R&D) budget for smaller nuclear power companies by 33 percent to 141.50 billion won (US$118.59 million) and will expand loans for tier 2 vendors.
In addition, it will raise its budget for decommissioning from 17.70 billion won (US$14.82 million) this year to 36.30 billion won (US$30.40 million) next year and that for radioactive waste disposal from 8.60 billion won (US$7.20 million) to 20.40 billion won (US$17.09 million). The budget for nuclear fusion will also be increased from 32 billion won (US$26.80 million) to 45.40 billion won (US$38.03 million) over the same period.