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New government to drive exports of nuclear plants

The coming Park Geun-hye government is expected to take a two-track policy of promoting exports of nuclear power plants while curbing expansion of the industry at home.

The outline of 140 major projects that the presidential transition committee unveiled on Thursday said the new government will support exports of nuclear plants in an attempt to boost the economy. But it didn’t present a clear direction on the increase of nuclear reactors at home. The president-elect has continued to stress the safety of nuclear plants rather than capacity expansion.

The renewed nuclear power policy direction was confirmed in the final version of the 6th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand for 2013 to 2027, which the Ministry of Knowledge Economy released on Friday. According to the plan, demand for electricity is expected to increase 3.4 percent on average per year between 2013 and 2027. Based on the prospects of rising demand, the ministry also unveiled plans on increases of electricity generation facilities by energy sources except nuclear power.

The ministry said the new government will made a decision on whether to build additional nuclear power plants and include the final decision in the upcoming National Energy Basic Plan to be released around August this year.

Accordingly, the ministry, which will soon change its name to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy, is expected to shift its nuclear power-related policy focus to exports with its two subsidiaries Korea Electric Power Corp.,and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp.

“It is the right timing to strengthen the support of reactor exports as some of governments in the world consider resuming nuclear power plant construction to secure a stable and efficient electricity supply channel,” a ministry official said.

“Exports of a nuclear power plant could boost the economy as it generates varied economic effects, including job creation and stimulation of related industries.”

Since a watershed reactor building deal worth $20 billion with the United Arab Emirates in 2009, Korea has sought reactor orders throughout the world.

It has been conducting a feasibility study on reactor construction in Vietnam since March last year under the agreement with the Vietnamese government. It is also waiting for the imminent announcement from the Turkish government on the preferred bidder for its second reactor construction project. Korea is reportedly in tight competition with Chinese and Japanese rivals to win the deal.

The ministry submitted a bid for a nuclear power plant project in Finland early this month. It also plans to submit a bid for the reactor building projects in such countries as South Africa, Poland and Hungary within this year. In particular, the ministry considers South Africa a strategic target destination as the deal could make it possible for Korea to enter the African market for the first time.

By Seo Jee-yeon  (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)
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