Korea wins bid for reactor in Europe

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Korea wins bid for reactor in Europe

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From left: The Hanaro nuclear reactor is the nation’s first locally developed reactor for research purposes; the existing R&D nuclear reactor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands will undergo renovations to expand its capacity and construction to add a neutron research facility.Provided by the institute

A Korean nuclear reactor for research purposes will soon be exported to the Netherlands, marking the first reactor bid won in a European country by a local consortium.

The team, led by state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (Kaeri) with private-sector partners Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Hyundai Engineering, won the project over two European consortiums.

Lee Sang-mok, vice minister of science, ICT and future planning, said yesterday at a press briefing that Kaeri and its Hyundai partners will renovate and build research reactors by 2017 at the Delft University of Technology. He said President Park Geun-hye played a major role in securing the bid when she attended the Nuclear Security Summit in March in The Hague where she met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“Winning the bid is one of the biggest successes in Korea’s 55 years of nuclear technology development,” Lee said. “Entering the European market for nuclear reactors will be a stepping stone to selling reactors in other foreign markets not just for research but also for commercial reactors for power generation.”

The project, worth 19 million euros ($25.8 million), includes expanding the capacity of existing reactors from 2 megawatts to 3 megawatts and constructing a research facility to study nuclear reactions made with cold neutrons.

Commercial nuclear reactors generate electricity by converting heat produced by nuclear reactions, but R&D reactors, usually used at engineering schools and for biotechnology research, dispose of the heat and instead use cold neutrons, which are the byproduct of a nuclear reaction, for experiments and observations.

Hyundai E&C is responsible for building the facilities and will take about 60 percent of the profit, while Kaeri and Hyundai Engineering will take about 20 percent each.

Lee said that the deal puts Korea in a more favorable position ahead of another bid this year in the Netherlands to build a R&D nuclear reactor worth 800 billion won at a research institute.

Korea has previously exported nuclear reactors for commercial and research use to the Middle East and other Asian countries. In addition to sending four commercial reactors to the United Arab Emirates in 2009, Korea has sold research reactors called Hanaro to three countries: Jordan, Thailand and Malaysia.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, about 60 percent of the world’s total 247 operating R&D nuclear reactors are more than 40 years old, which has created a market for repairs and reconstruction.

Only seven countries - including the United States, France, Germany and Korea - have the technology to build cold neutron generators.

The market for research reactors is likely to grow as the usage of cold neutron facilities is increasing and its uses are becoming more varied.

Cold neutrons are used for medical purposes such as observing internal structures, as in an X-ray.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]





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