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S. Korea hopes to use UAE nuclear project as stepping stone to new markets

SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) — South Korea will closely work with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to begin operation of the Middle Eastern nation’s first nuclear power plant and seek ways to enter new markets, Seoul’s energy ministry said Tuesday.

As part of a joint venture between state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, four reactors are being built at the Barakah nuclear power plant, under a US$20 billion deal signed in 2009.

The first reactor is technically ready to start operation this year and is waiting for an operational license from the UAE’s nuclear regulator, while three others are due to go online by 2020. The combined output of 5,600 megawatt at the power plant will supply up to 25 percent of UAE’s electricity needs.

Ahead of the commercial operation, South Korean energy minister Paik Un-gyu visited UAE to inspect the construction site and pledge broad support for the nuclear project.

During meetings with senior UAE officials, Paik suggested the two nations explore ways to jointly bid for nuclear projects in other nations by combining South Korea’s nuclear expertise and UAE’s funding capacity.

“The two sides shared consensus that the Barakah nuclear project would be an important asset for entering the global nuclear market,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a release. “Based on the experience, they agreed to seek ways to cooperate for new projects in other nations.”

South Korea is eyeing a bid for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear project, seeking a second chance to tap into the Middle East market.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, has received offers from five nations, including South Korea, the United States and Russia, to build two nuclear reactors as part of its broader plan to expand its proportion of non-fossil-fuel-based energy. The kingdom is expected to shortlist two or three preferred bidders by April and plans to select a winner by the end of this year, according to local reports.

KEPCO has also been also negotiating with Toshiba Corp. for a nuclear power plant project in Moorside, northwest England, since it was selected as a preferred bidder in December.

Source: YonHap