U.S. and South Korean Cooperation in the World Nuclear Energy Market: Major Policy Considerations
A South Korean consortium signed a contract in December 2009 to provide four commercial nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), signaling a new role for South Korea in the world nuclear energy market. The $20 billion deal indicates that South Korea has completed the transition from passive purchaser of turn-key nuclear plants in the 1970s to major nuclear technology supplier, capable of competing with the largest and most experienced nuclear technology companies in the world. In the 1970s, South Korea launched its nuclear power program through the government-owned Korea Electric Company (now Korea Electric Power Corporation, KEPCO), which purchased the country's first nuclear power units from Westinghouse. In the early years of the Korean nuclear program, Westinghouse and other foreign suppliers delivered completed plants with minimal Korean industry input. After the first three units, Korean firms took over the construction work on subsequent plants, although the reactor systems, turbine-generators, and architect/engineering services continued to be provided primarily by non-Korean companies. In 1987, KEPCO embarked on an effort to establish a standard Korean design, selecting the System 80 design from the U.S. firm Combustion Engineering as the basis. Combustion Engineering won the competition for the Korean standard design contract by agreeing to full technology transfer, according to KEPCO. The technology transfer program resulted in the development of the APR- 1400 power plant, which is the design purchased by the UAE.
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