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Canada eyes more nuclear cooperation with S.Korea: minister

Canada wants to step up cooperation with South Korea in the nuclear energy industry as a bilateral free trade deal and Seoul's revised nuclear agreement with the United States provide more room for advanced projects, a senior Canadian official said Sunday.

Reza Moridi, head of Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation, said South Korea has made "landmark technological achievements" since importing four Candu reactors from Canada four decades ago and is getting ready to team up with Canadian partners to tap into the global market.

"Korea has played a strong role in the development of nuclear science and technology. I am encouraging Korea and the Ontario Candu energy sector to work together in terms of new reactors and services, as well as various other nuclear technologies in the world," Moridi said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

Moridi was in Seoul to attend the Korea Atomic Power Annual Conference and to meet with Korean government and company officials to discuss ways to forge closer ties with the energy sector in his jurisdiction. 

South Korea has 23 nuclear reactors in operation, from which it currently gets about 30 percent of its electricity supply, and plans to build 11 more by 2024.

Among them, four are Candu 6 units imported from Canada, which are pressurized heavy water reactors used for generating electric power. The four are located in Wolsong, a major nuclear hub located on the southeastern coast.

South Korea is the largest operator of Candu plants outside its home and "among the top performers in the world," he said.

Moridi expressed hope that the bilateral free trade deal, which took effect in January, will boost economic ties in the nuclear and renewable energy sector, noting nuclear reactor technology and uranium were among the top 10 goods Ontario exported to South Korea last year.

The recently revised 1974 nuclear energy cooperation pact with the United States that now allows South Korea to reprocess spent fuel and enrich uranium will provide more opportunities for Canada's nuclear industry to work with Korean partners to develop spent fuel technology, the reutilization process and future nuclear energy systems.

 "Korea would be an ideal market in which to use recycled uranium in its Candu fleet, thereby opening new opportunities for cooperation," he said. "We look forward to the opportunity to discuss mutual priorities and share best practices for our nuclear sectors."

Although there are lingering safety concerns in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011, the Canadian official said nuclear energy is still a safer and more environment-friendly option compared with traditional power plants, noting it is important to raise public awareness of the benefits of nuclear energy.

"Nuclear reactors and power stations are heavily regulated in such countries as Korea, the United States and Canada. In that sense, it's very safe," he said. "There's no risk-free activity, but when you compare all these things, nuclear energy is a good way to produce electricity." (Yonhap)