For nuke plants, Korea now targets Lithuania

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For nuke plants, Korea now targets Lithuania

While Korea may be having trouble landing a deal with Turkey to build and operate nuclear reactors, Lithuania is emerging as Korea’s next target for nuclear exports. The state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation confirmed yesterday that it submitted a bid last week to win a power plant order in Lithuania.

“We have submitted a binding proposal to participate in the bid and a preferred bidder will be announced next month,” said an official from Kepco.

The confirmation comes after Verslo Zinios, a Lithuanian business daily, reported that Lithuania received bids from Korea and France, citing anonymous sources.

“Foreign media have been reporting that Korea will be competing against France to win the power plant order, but we cannot confirm which countries have also submitted proposals because the Lithuanian government hasn’t disclosed any specific information,” the Kepco official said.

Late last year, France lost out to Korea when it won a bid to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates.

According to industry sources, Lithuania is planning on building one nuclear power facility by 2018 in Visaginas, a city located in the eastern part of the country, to replace the Soviet-made Ignalina power plant. Lithuania operated two nuclear reactors at the site before it shut them down in 2004 and 2009 because of safety concerns.

The plant, which had been supplying 80 percent of the country’s total power needs, was worn out and the technology was the same type used at Chernobyl, which melted down in 1986. The European Union asked Lithuania to replace the plant as a condition of being accepted as an EU nation.

“It’s most probable that Lithuania will be considering the safety issue as its priority factor for choosing a builder,” said an industry official.

The construction cost is estimated to be around 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion). Once the power plant is built, there is a high possibility that the reactor will supply electricity to neighboring countries such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Belarus.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy responded very cautiously to the possibility of Korea exporting nuclear power plants to Lithuania because of the difficulties in negotiating a deal with Turkey. Korea had expected to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Turkey on a nuclear reactor partnership during the G-20 Summit in Seoul last week, but the two governments failed to reach an agreement because of disagreements over the prices charged for the electricity produced.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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