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US court dismisses Westinghouse case against Korea

A US district court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Westinghouse Electric Company seeking to prevent Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) and its parent company Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) from exporting the APR1400 reactor design without its permission.

Westinghouse filed the case on 21 October last year with the District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit claimed that the APR1400 design includes intellectual property licensed by Westinghouse and requires its permission before being transferred to other countries considering deploying the design.

The APR1400 is an evolutionary pressurised water reactor with its origins in the CE System 80+ design, which Westinghouse acquired in 2000. Principally designed by Korea Engineering Company, it produces 1400 MWe and has a 60-year design life. It supersedes the standardised 995 MWe OPR-1000 design, of which South Korea built 12.  The APR1400 features improvements in operation, safety, maintenance and affordability based on accumulated experience as well as technological development.

In its lawsuit, Westinghouse said KHNP and KEPCO needed its support to comply with US laws restricting nuclear power technology sharing. Under these rules – known as Part 810 requirements – the US Department of Energy must approve the sharing of certain technologies with other countries. Part 810 sets out regulations governing the transfer of technology for development, production or use of nuclear reactors, equipment and materials.

In response, KHNP filed countersuits in the USA calling for Westinghouse to withdraw the case. It claimed that the US Atomic Energy Act grants authority to enforce the law exclusively to the US Attorney General and not to entities as a means of claiming rights through litigation.

In an 18 September ruling, the District Court for the District of Columbia accepted the defendants’ argument and dismissed the case.

“The court holds that Westinghouse lacks a private cause of action to enforce Part 810 and therefore has failed to state a claim,” the ruling read.

KHNP – which is competing to win nuclear power plant contracts in central Europe – may continue to face legal or other administrative challenges from Westinghouse as the court’s dismissal of the case did not address whether the company violated Westinghouse’s intellectual property rights. KHNP is pursuing arbitration over the intellectual property dispute with Westinghouse through the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board.

Under a USD20 billion deal announced in December 2009, four Korean-designed APR1400 reactors have been built at the Barakah site in the UAE by a consortium led by KEPCO. The first three of these units were connected to the grid in August 2020, September 2021 and October 2022, respectively.

On 28 October 2022, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that Westinghouse had been selected for the first part of the country’s six-reactor plan to build up to 9 GWe of capacity by 2040.

On 31 October last year, Poland’s Ministry of State Assets, South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, ZE PAK, PGE and KHNP signed a letter of intent to develop plans for a nuclear power plant consisting of at least two Korean-supplied APR1400 reactors in Pątnów.

Source: World Nuclear News