Lofty goals set for nuclear exports
Korea has set an aggressive goal of exporting 80 reactors by the end of 2030 as it looks to become one of the world’s top three suppliers of nuclear power plants, a move that could bring with it an avalanche of new jobs and provide a boost to the economy.
The global nuclear industry expects a total of 430 nuclear power plants to be built by that year, meaning Korea will have to capture nearly 20 percent of new orders over the next two decades.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced the target yesterday in a meeting with President Lee Myung-bak while laying out its plan to enhance the country’s nuclear power industry and make reactors a top export. The ministry said that as the competitiveness of Korea’s nuclear reactors has been proven with the recent United Arab Emirates deal, Korea will be able to secure orders for 10 nuclear reactors by 2012 and capture dozens more by 2030. If Korea meets the target, it expects to bring in $400 billion in earnings and generate 1.56 million new jobs.
According to Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye, President Lee stressed at the meeting that the nuclear power industry will become a new growth engine for a country that does not produce a single drop of oil. Korea, therefore, needs to step up its efforts in developing the industry.
“With our strategy of turning the nation’s nuclear power plant technology into a leading export industry, we are building a foundation for the next 50 years,” said Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan. “The key to success is endless technology innovation and raising new talent, and the government plans to focus on these areas.”
The government’s long-term strategic plans include the localization of major core technologies by 2012. To do this, the government decided to earmark 99.6 billion won ($88.5 million) for research.
Also, the government jointly with the private sector will inject 400 billion won by 2017 in research and development that will expand the life expectancy of nuclear power plants from the current 60 years to 80 years and reduce the time in constructing a reactor from the previous 52 months to 36 months.
Along these lines, the ministry said it will hire 2,800 new employees through next year who will be working at the five nuclear-related state-run agencies, including the Korea Electric Power Corp.
The world’s first international graduate school specializing in nuclear study will open in September of next year, months earlier than the initial target of March 2012. The government is looking at producing 100 experts with highly advanced degrees every year. It is also out to raise self-development of uranium, which is essential in operating nuclear power plants.
With its winning bid to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, Korea has become the world’s sixth country to export nuclear power plants, joining the U.S., Russia, France, Japan and Canada.
“Korea’s competitiveness is already on a global level,” said Vice Minister Kim Young-hak.
By Lee Ho-jeong [firstname.lastname@example.org]