Although Korea has exported nuclear power plants to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it can exclusively supply nuclear fuel to the plants only for three fuel cycles, which add up to less than five years. After that, Korea has to compete with other countries such as the United States to supply nuclear fuel to the plants.
Experts say that nuclear power plants normally do not change their fuel suppliers, and the UAE’s decision to choose a fuel supplier through competitive bidding may have been prompted by its concern about Korea’s nuclear phase-out policy.
According to KEPCO Nuclear Fuel (KEPCO NF) on March 19, it has signed a contract with the UAE to supply nuclear fuel for three cycles, starting from the date when the Barakah nuclear power plant goes into commercial operation. Usually one cycle lasts for 18 months, and at each cycle, 80 of the 240 nuclear fuel bundles are replaced. It takes 54 months or four and a half years for the entire nuclear bundle in the reactor to be replaced.
KEPCO NF’s fuel contract with the UAE was made under the Lee Myung-bak administration, but the UAE’s decision to go with competitive bidding while the contract is not through yet may be related to Korea’s nuclear phase-out policy.
Professor Chung Bum-jin of Kyung Hee University said, “In order to change nuclear fuel at a reactor, the power plant should undergo scrutiny by regulatory agencies, which, in Korea’s case, include the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. The UAE may have chosen competitive bidding due to its concern about Korea’s declared phase-out of nuclear power generation.