ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates, accompanied by Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday, reconfirming close energy ties with the UAE on the third day of his state visit.
The Barakah nuclear power plant was the first nuclear power plant in the country and the first overseas nuclear power plant designed and built by Korea.
The nuclear power plant is being jointly constructed by Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T. While construction is underway, units 1 and 2 are already in use, providing 60 percent of Abu Dhabi’s electricity and 15 percent of the UAE’s power. Unit 3 was recently put into operation and unit 4 is being constructed.
The two leaders visited the plant to celebrate the operation of unit 3 and observe the continued progress of the plant, the office said in a written statement after Yoon’s visit.
Yoon’s visit comes in line with efforts to build on the existing special strategic partnership between the UAE and South Korea with the recent signing of a number of government-level agreements.
During the visit, the two leaders met with the teams working at Barakah, including Emirati and Korean nuclear energy experts working side by side with foreign specialists. They observed the ongoing operation of units 1 and 2, the operation of unit 3 and the progress made on unit 4 in accelerating the UAE’s clean energy transition.
In his speech at the site, Yoon was quoted as saying, “The Barakah nuclear fleet, which has two units in operation and the other two soon to be operational, holds great, monumental significance as it represents the special strategic partnership between the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Korea.”
“Building on the success that the two nations have achieved jointly as partners at Barakah and capitalizing on Team Korea’s excellent nuclear technology and experience, now is the time for us to further our partnership to a greater height delivering additional cooperation in the UAE and making headway into third country nuclear markets together,” Yoon said.
He hoped that his visit “marks a watershed” for the two nations’ comprehensive and strategic energy partnership that would extend beyond nuclear to areas including hydrogen, renewables and carbon capture and storage.
The UAE leader said the relationship with Korea has been continuously strengthened through the decadelong collaboration in developing the Barakah nuclear power plant.
“I am proud of the Emirati, Korean and international teams working together at Barakah, as they complete another unit to strengthen the UAE’s clean electricity portfolio and set the global benchmark for nuclear energy project delivery,” he said.
Yoon was accompanied by South Korea’s ministers of finance, science, foreign affairs, industry and transport. Also with Yoon were Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Hyundai Motor Executive Chairman Chung Euisun.
Before going to the plan, Yoon visited the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in the morning and gave a keynote speech at the opening ceremony. It was also attended by Sheikh Mohammed.
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is the largest international energy event in the Middle East, held annually by the UAE government and Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company since 2008. This year's theme is “United on Climate Action for COP28 Toward COP 28.”
In his speech, Yoon introduced several clean energy collaborations between the two countries, which he said stand on a path of bilateral solidarity and cooperation for carbon neutrality.
“We are sparing no efforts in empowering businesses in Korea to pioneer new business areas related to carbon neutrality through technological innovations,” Yoon said. “Also, cities in Korea aim to transform into smart cities by converging low-carbon energy and mobility technologies.”
“If our two countries join efforts in clean energy development ranging from renewable energy, hydrogen, to carbon capture, utilization and storage, in addition to our existing cooperation area of nuclear power, which is symbolic of our friendship. It will not only enhance our two countries’ energy security, but also contribute to improving the global energy market’s stability,” he said.
Yoon's schedule on Monday was focused on business, seeking to publicize Korea’s investment environment and taking steps to revitalize the Korean economy by expanding exports, the presidential office said.
After visiting the nuclear power plant, Yoon visited a Korea-UAE business consulting meeting and encouraged businessmen from both countries who were in the process of one-on-one consultations.
The business forum is a venue to shed light on a new vision of economic cooperation between the two countries. When the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1980, the volume of trade, which was less than $200 million, has now grown more than 90 times.
The two sides signed a total of 24 memorandums of understanding and contracts worth at least $6.1 billion on the occasion of this business forum.
In addition to traditional areas of cooperation such as energy and defense, MOUs were signed in new industries such as hydrogen production and utilization, bio, digital transformation, and metaverse, providing an opportunity to advance and diversify economic cooperation between Korea and the UAE.
In the energy sector, four MOUs were signed in hydrogen and ammonia co-production (with Korea National Oil Corporation), hydrogen and renewable energy (with Samsung C&T), renewable energy (with Daehan E&C), and power transmission and gas power generation with (Samsung C&T).
Hyundai Heavy Industries, LIG Nex1 and K-Tech signed two MOUs and one contract related to the defense business.