Nuclear agreement with U.S. to boost Korean exports

The Korea-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation pact signed Wednesday is expected to smooth Korean companies’ exports of nuclear power generation-related products and technologies, industry insiders said Thursday.

Under the new deal, Seoul can transfer U.S.-originated nuclear equipment, technology and material to a third country without the consent of the U.S., as long as the respective country has a nuclear pact with the U.S. Seoul had been obliged to secure U.S. approval prior to the outbound shipment of all nuclear parts or technology because many are still from the U.S.

Washington has also pledged to speed up its authorization process for nuclear imports and exports, which makes businesspeople hopeful about greater opportunities for Korea’s nuclear export industry.

“The whole deal has made Korea’s overall process much simpler,” said Yu Jung-ho, spokesperson for the Korea Nuclear Association for International Cooperation.

“Before, there were always risks of our rivals linking Korea’s relatively longer approval process to a delay in construction during the bidding process. But once the pact comes into effect, this risk could be eliminated. I wouldn’t be helplessly hopeful about the whole deal, but the business potential has definitely become bigger,” he said.

Korea is a major nuclear energy country and exports technology. It is building four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates for $20 billion and is seeking to win more contracts in the Middle East, which is rapidly adopting green power generation technology.

Around 200 new atomic power plants are to be built worldwide, and competition is strong over billion-dollar contracts.

Seoul is reportedly eyeing Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Egypt to win work, and is competing against France and Japan over power plants in Saudi Arabia, which is aiming to generate electricity using nuclear power from 2023.

Korea Electric Power Corporation’s feasibility report on building a nuclear power plant in Vietnam is pending in the Vietnamese parliament. The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnamese authorities in 2002 and has jointly designed a power plant development blueprint in 2011.

KEPCO has also teamed up with the Egyptian construction firm Arab Constructors to share knowledge on power plants’ construction process after Seoul signed a memorandum of understanding with the respective authorities in 2013.

Meanwhile, the deal has also opened opportunities for Korea to have its spent fuel reprocessed abroad in countries that both Korea and U.S. believe pose no proliferation risk.

“The biggest achievement is that Seoul and Washington get to collaborate and discuss on the spent nuclear fuel management. Now it is up to Korea to figure out how this could contribute to our export in a bigger picture,“ said Cho Seong-kyung, spokesperson at the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management.


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