] The South Korean government on Oct. 26 expressed its intention to join a bid to build atomic power plants in Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, which is seeking to adopt its first commercial nuclear reactors.
The country is reportedly reaching out to potential bidders in France, China, Russia, Japan and Korea.
Paik Un-gyu, Korea’s minister of trade, industry and energy, expressed the intention to bid in the tender to Adel bin Muhammad Fakeih, Saudi Arabian minister of economy and planning, ahead of a Korean-Saudi Arabian business forum called “Vision 2030” held in Seoul on Thursday.
If Korea manages to clinch the deal, which is estimated to be worth at least $20 billion, Saudi Arabia will become the second Gulf nation to have nuclear power generators built on Korean technologies, following the United Arab Emirates.
Paik said Korea’s nuclear power plant builders, including the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation, are able to capitalize on their four decades of experience to build and operate nuclear power plants at home and abroad.
He also stressed Korea is the only nation among rivals that has understanding of the atomic power plant business in the Middle East.
Paik told Fakeih that South Korea is willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to set up nuclear power infrastructure by nurturing specialists and helping Saudi Arabia craft pertaining regulations. During the talks, Fakeih offered to share with Korea the schedule to launch its tender process and develop regulations, according to the ministry.
The move by the ministry came amid concerns that the nation’s nuclear power phase-out policy might pose a hurdle to its aim to build reactors overseas.
The phase-out policy is one of President Moon Jae-in’s election pledges, leading to the state’s announcement on Oct. 24 to decrease the number of power reactors from the current 24 to 14 by 2038, following its decision to shut down Korea’s oldest nuclear plant in June.
The government had also suspended the construction of two reactors and put their fate in the hands of a state commission, whose survey on a 471-member jury on Oct. 20 was in favor of restarting the construction.
Moon in June unveiled plans to scale up nonnuclear renewable energy power generation to 20 percent by 2030, from roughly 5 percent as of June.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly expected to launch a nuclear power tender for two reactors with a combined electricity generating capacity of 2.8 gigawatts as early as October, but the announcement has yet to be made public by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, the government agency in charge.
Last month, Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, president of KACARE, said the country has been working with South Korean partners to build reactors that run in remote areas without links to power grids, in an annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency held in Vienna.
Saudi Arabia’s latest move to diversify energy supply is part of its renewable energy drive with a goal to build 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2032, which stemmed from the nation’s reform program Vision 2030.
In 2009, Korea won a $40 billion deal with UAE to establish firms to fund and operate four reactors there, which are now under construction. The consortium, which includes Kepco, aims to have its first nuclear reactor go online next year.
By Son Ji-hyoung/The Korea Herald (email@example.com