SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s energy minister vowed Tuesday to support local companies’ overseas sales of nuclear reactors, even as the Asian country reduces use of nuclear power as part of its renewable energy initiative.
Under the energy transformation policy, South Korea plans to increase use of renewable energy from 7 percent in 2016 to 20 percent by 2030, and gradually phase out nuclear reactors without extending their life cycles.
“The government will implement the energy transformation policy in a way that people can feel its impact in their daily lives,” Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy said in a meeting with senior officials from energy companies.
“As nuclear reactors are set to phase out, the government will provide support for the nuclear industry, as well as the local community, and give a leg up to local companies’ bids to export nuclear reactors abroad.”
South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest consumer of nuclear energy, currently operates 24 nuclear reactors, which account for about a third of its total electricity use.
The government’s pledge aims to address concerns that Seoul’s change of policy from nuclear power to renewable energy could burden local industry’s overseas marketing efforts in the face of fiercer global competition.
With several large-scale projects on the horizon, state-run utility firms and construction companies have been making sales pitches abroad as part of efforts to tackle shrinking domestic demand.
Saudi Arabia is expected to place a bid this year to build the oil-rich kingdom’s first nuclear reactors, potentially offering a second chance for South Korea to tap into the Middle East market.
In 2009, a South Korean consortium led by state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. won a US$20 billion deal to build a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates.
Last month, Korea Electric Power Corp. was selected as the preferred bidder for a Toshiba Corp.-owned NuGen consortium in charge of building a nuclear power plant in Britain, a move that could eventually pave the way for South Korea to make inroads into the European nuclear energy market.