Minister Paik Un-gyu of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) left for the United States on April 18 to make an official visit designed to ease discord the two countries might have harbored before and during negotiations of revising the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. He is accompanied by about 10 officials, including MOTIE Deputy Minister for Trade Kang Song Seong-chul.
The prime purpose of MOTIE Minister Paik’s visit is to hold behind-the-scene negotiations between Korea and the United States to smooth Korea’s winning the right to build nuclear power units in Saudi Arabia, sources familiar to the matter said. The reason is that Minister Paik is also accompanied by MOTIE Director Moon Shin-hak in charge of nuclear power industry policy and senior KEPCO officials.
Chances are that if Korea is awarded Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power project, a conflict may occur between Korea and the United States. Minister Paik is making the trip to the United States hurriedly based on the high probability that Korea may be the final victor of a bid to win the project, given that Korea has a competitive edge in price, technology and construction experience.
Saudi Arabia wants to implement a project to build two 1400MW-class nuclear power units in a desert. The project will cost a minimum $12 billion. KEPCO signed an $18.6 billion contract on the construction of four 1400MW nuclear power units in the United Arab Emirate, now under way. On top of KEPCO, Rosatom of Russia, EDF of France, and Westinghouse of the United States are staging a fierce competition in the bidding race. Korea’s winning the Saudi Arabian nuclear power project might hit a stumbling block.
The United States requires approval from Congress to export nuclear power units using U.S.-made technologies. APR 1400, Korea’s homegrown export reactor model, is developed based on AP 1000, a reactor model of Westinghouse. The UAE nuclear units are being built with APR 1400 using U.S.-made coolant pump and digital control center. Things have changed as Korea has now APR1400, which are fully self-sufficient and have a Korean-designed coolant pump and two other core components. Korea had achieved full self-sufficiency regarding APR 1400 last year. The United State or Westinghouse wouldn't recognize it, causing a possible conflict between the two countries, business sources said.
KEPCO is selected as the preferred bidder in the Moorside nuclear power plant in Cumbria, the United Kingdom, being built by Toshiba. Toshiba is seeking to withdraw from the nuclear power business due to snowballing losses.
NuGen is to build three AP1000 nuclear reactors, to be supplied by Westinghouse, Toshiba’s subsidiary, for the Moorside Nuclear Power Station on a site near Sellafield, in Cumbria, by 2025. The price tag is 15 billion pounds (21 trillion won).
NuGen, a U.K. joint venture between Toshiba and ENGIE, has been working on the Nuclear Power Station since it was awarded the project from the British government. Toshiba has a 60 percent stake in NuGen.
MOTIE Minister Paik met with Saudi ranking government officials, including Saudi Minister Khalid al-Falih of the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, during his visit to Saudi Arabia from March 11 to March 13. Saudi officials showed a keen interest in Korea’s nuclear power technology, Minister Paik said at a meeting with reporters in Sejong City recently.
MOTIE Minister Paik said the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant will serve as a great asset in helping Korea land nuclear power projects in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. He made the remarks while touring the site of constructing the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and looked into the progress of the construction and preparations into Barakah Nuclear Power Unit 1 on Feb. 24.
Minister Paik said Korea is working on the construction of four APR1400 nuclear power units about 270 km west of Abu Dhabi. He called for the dedication of Unit 1 by year-end and all four by 2020 “on time and on budget.”