An open door

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An open door

Korea has opened the door to the global nuclear reactor market.

A consortium consisting of the state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo Engineering and Construction has been selected after an international bidding round as the preferred group to build a nuclear reactor for research in Jordan.

Unless any unexpected mishap takes place, the Korean consortium will get a chance to finalize the contract with Jordan. If so, Korea will become an exporter of nuclear reactors for the first time, coming 50 years after the country bought one for research from the United States in 1959.

Korea has been operating its 30-megawatt High-flux Advanced Neutron Application Reactor since 1995 and has been eyeing export markets in the past few years.

The country has already emerged as the word’s sixth-largest nuclear power plant producer. It also takes pride in the fact that it has world-class talent for designing, constructing and managing nuclear reactors.

But it has thus far failed to export any of its reactors, having come up short in a series of international bids involving the development of reactors for research and even commercial purposes. The reason for its failure was mainly due to the fact that existing nuclear powers were reluctant to yield their status.

Finally, though, Korea has gained a chance to provide 97 percent of a reactor for another country, ranging from design to installation and management.

The project calls for a five-megawatt nuclear reactor, which is roughly one-20th the size of the plant in Gangwon. But the deal is worth an estimated 200 billion won ($173.5 million). Given that up to 20 trillion won worth of nuclear reactors for research are expected to be needed within the next 15 years, Korea can expect to seal additional deals in the near future.

What matters now is exports of nuclear reactor systems, which not only require technology but also involve a country’s diplomatic capacity.

As a major driving force behind green growth, the nuclear reactor industry has huge potential. For the country to foster that industry, it should offer plenty of support in terms of policy and diplomacy.
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