South Korean president pushes for nuclear plant deal in UAE
President Lee Myung Bak is to visit the United Arab Emirates this weekend to support a South Korean consortium's bid to build the Gulf's first nuclear power plant, his office said Saturday.
The project, estimated to bring in 41 million dollars' worth of contracts, is one of the world's biggest nuclear power plant deals, dpa reported.
Winning the bid would "be an important milestone for Korea to open the nuclear energy era in the international community," presidential spokesman Lee Dong Kwan said. "This deal will build a bridge for Korea to enter the world market."
Lee is scheduled to meet with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan during the two-day visit, the presidential office stated.
The bidding pits South Korean consortium Korea Electric Power Co (KEPCO), Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Samsung C&T Corp and Doosan Heavy Industries against French competitors EDF Group, GDF Suez, Areva and Total.
"As the UAE is a place with no nuclear energy base, it's such a talked-about project," an employee from one of the French companies who requested anonymity told German Press Agency dpa.
"All of the major players in nuclear energy are vying to do this because it provides complete import," the source said. "If a foreign company was building a nuclear power plant in South Korea, they would be more likely to partner with a local South Korean company that has experience in the field. But in the UAE, you can do it all within one company."
No one authorized to speak about the project was available at KEPCO during the Christmas holiday.
The UAE is expected to choose a winner before the end of the month, possibly as early as next week, other industry sources said.
It would be the South Korea's first export of nuclear energy development technology and its largest plant construction export.
South Korea is the world's sixth-largest nuclear energy producer, with 20 reactors in operation and eight more under construction.
Before the South Korean and French consortiums were chosen for the final round, another group led by US-based General Electric was also in the running before being eliminated by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, which oversees nuclear energy implementation in the oil-rich federation.
Nuclear power is listed as a strategic export industry by South Korea's Knowledge Economy Ministry, under Lee's priorities for low-carbon, green-growth initiatives.