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Making History in the Korean Nuclear Power Plant Industry
The Korean government is promoting the nuclear power industry as a new growth engine for Corporate Korea
Making History in the Korean Nuclear Power Plant Industry
  • By matthew
  • January 15, 2010, 14:15
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Q: A Korean consortium won a project worth US$40 billion to build four nuclear power plants (5,600MW) in the United Arab Emirates. Could you tell us more about its meaning and economic value?

A: It has been 50 years since Korea introduced nuclear power plants with the help of foreign engineers. However, Korea did not export its nuclear power plant technologies. Therefore, it is quite meaningful that the UAE project made Korea the world’s sixth nuclear plant exporter after the U.S., France, Canada, Russia and Japan. In particular, this UAE project has proven the excellence of Korea’s power plant technologies in the global market, as well as upgrading the nation’s image. Korean people can take great pride in their country as Korea secured the order after beating world powers in the nuclear power plant industry such as France, the U.S. and Japan.

Furthermore, Korea now has the opportunity to expand its power plant industry into a major new cash cow at a time when nuclear power is gaining importance in the global energy industry. It is expected that Korea and the UAE will cooperate in the entire economic sector, not to mention the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. Korea can enjoy numerous positive effects from the project, such as a stable supply of oil and a second boom in the Middle East by securing a base to advance into the market.

As you said, the UAE project is valued at a total of US$40 billion in exports. In detail, the construction cost of the four nuclear power plants in the UAE stands at US$20 billion, which is equal to exports of one million cars or 180 oil tankers (300,000-ton-class). After construction is completed, Korea can earn approximately US$20 billion in nuclear fuels, operation and maintenance services. This project will create an average of 11,000 new jobs for ten years, and is the biggest plant export deal in Korea’s history. Therefore, the project is expected to contribute significantly to the national economy via job creation and in areas such as construction, machinery, design, nuclear technology development and finance.

Q: The Korean government played a big role in securing the UAE project. Would you tell us more about this?

A: First of all, we thank the Korean people for their continued and strong support. They empowered us. Korea secured its world-class nuclear power plant technologies and price competitiveness on the foundation of this support from the people, enabling the nation to compete equally with advanced countries. Korea suggested economic cooperation programs between the UAE and Korea in various sectors as it will take roughly ten years to build the nuclear power plants, which are expected to operate for around 60 years. Since forming official diplomatic ties with the UAE, Korea has cooperated with the UAE in many areas, particularly the plant sector. Korea is the second biggest buyer of oil from the UAE, while the UAE is the second biggest oil exporter to Korea. Moreover, Korea has received US$22.8 billion in plant orders from the UAE since 2004. In addition to the nuclear power plant project, Korea also impressed the UAE with various win-win cooperation plans covering a wide range of the economic sector, such as new and renewable energy, advanced industries (ICT, semiconductor, shipbuilding) and education which the UAE wants to pursue as new growth engines.

Q: Would you explain about the current status of the global nuclear power plant industry and give an outlook on it.

A: 436 nuclear power reactors are currently being operated in 31 countries, such as the U.S., France, Japan, the U.K. and Switzerland. Nuclear power accounts for 15% of total global power generation. The U.S. has the most nuclear reactors (104), while France depends the most on nuclear power generation, with it accounting for 76% of its total power generation. With an eye towards preparing for a low-carbon green growth era, nations around the world are recognizing nuclear power’s ability to break through high oil prices and bring about reductions in greenhouse gases. As a result, a lot of nations are planning to build or expand nuclear power plants. Accordingly, about 430 new nuclear reactors will be built by the end of 2030, resulting in the creation of a 120-trillion-won nuclear power plant market.

Q: How is the international competitiveness of Korea’s nuclear power industry? How can Korea reinforce its competitiveness?

A: As proved in the process to take over the UAE Project, Korea possesses world-class technologies, an impeccable safety record, price competitiveness and a supply chain that can cover the entire nuclear power plant construction process. For example, there have been no nuclear power plant accidents in Korea since first being introduced in 1978. Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of ENEC of the UAE said, “We have been deeply impressed by the strong safety and capabilities of Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPC),”adding, “The KEPCO-led consortium is an excellent team with rich experience. We are sure that it will transfer the knowledge gained from its 30-year-long successful operation of nuclear power plants in Korea to the UAE.”

However, Korea does depend on foreign countries for some core technologies, and the nation also needs to secure more engineers and enhance its capabilities to supply materials. Korean companies will be able to develop core technologies via the Nuclear Power Generation Export Promotion Strategy which the Korean government plans to introduce by 2012. The core technologies are design codes for nuclear power plants and reactor coolant pumps (RCPs) and man machine interface systems (MMIS).

Q: What are promising future markets for the Korean nuclear power industry? And what are the Korean government’s plans and strategies?

A: The promising future markets are about 40 countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas which are planning to introduce or increase power plant facilities. The Korean government and Korean companies are planning to reinforce overseas marketing activities for the Korean nuclear power plant industry. The Korean government is now devising a Nuclear Power Generation Export Promotion Strategy to actively grow the nuclear power industry as a strategic export item. This strategy will deal with earlier development of core technologies and human resources development among others. The plan will be announced in January.