Energy firms plan to expand R&D investment

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Energy firms plan to expand R&D investment

Korea’s state-run energy companies will increase research and development (R&D) spending this year to develop renewable energy technologies and improve safety of nuclear reactors, the government said Thursday.

A total of 17 state-controlled energy companies assigned a combined 1.26 trillion won ($1.18 billion) for R&D projects this year, up 4.1 percent spent in 2017, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said. The 2018 budget was 10 percent more than the amount recommended by the government,

The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), the nation’s sole nuclear operator, set aside 475 billion won to enhance the safety of nuclear reactors to better withstand earthquakes and develop advanced reactor designs and nuclear decommissioning technologies.

Among 24 reactors in the nation, 18 are located along the southeastern coast, which is more exposed to tremors, as recent earthquakes in nearby Japan could have destabilized the fault lines on the Korean Peninsula.

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Korea has been upgrading the nuclear reactors’ seismic safety features to withstand a magnitude 7.0 quake. A series of earthquakes stronger than magnitude 5 that hit the nation’s southeastern region in 2016 and 2017 have raised awareness of the safety of old nuclear reactors.

The nuclear operator will also step up efforts to develop technologies for nuclear decommissioning as South Korea’s oldest reactor was permanently shut down in May.

Korea has 17 key technologies for nuclear decommissioning, while it hasn’t acquired 21 technologies related to decommissioning preparation, decontamination, dismantling, waste disposal and environmental recovery. The ministry said it aims to develop technologies needed to dismantle nuclear reactors by 2021.

The Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco), the nation’s largest electric utility, plans to spend 430.7 billion won to push for a cross-border energy grid project and develop wind power and solar energy technologies in line with the government’s renewable energy initiative.

Kepco has been working on a project to link an electricity grid with China, Japan and Mongolia, which aims to build a 2-gigawatt complex that can produce solar and wind power in Mongolia, and a seabed power grid connecting the three nations. YONHAP
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