Yoon calls on Czech Republic to engage Korean companies in nuclear power plant

2023.09.20 14:27:02 | 2023.09.20 14:30:56

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Czech President Petr Pavel at a South Korea-Czech summit held in New York on Sep. 18 (local). [Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shakes hands with Czech President Petr Pavel at a South Korea-Czech summit held in New York on Sep. 18 (local). [Photo by Yonhap]

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol kicked off his trip to New York to attend the 78th the UN General Assembly with a series of bilateral talks focused on strengthening economic cooperation.

Yoon has met with nine countries’ leaders since he arrived in the U.S. city on Monday local time, the first day of his trip.

During his meeting with Czech President Petr Pavel, Yoon asked the Czech Republic to support Korean companies’ participation in the new nuclear power plant project in Dukovany. It is reported that Yoon actively emphasized that Korea and the Czech Republic can mutually benefit as Korean companies have world-class technology and are competitive in the nuclear power plant sector.

Three companies, including Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP), as well as U.S. and French companies, participated in the bidding for the Dukovany nuclear power plant project in the Czech Republic. The preferred bidder is expected to be decided in the first quarter of 2024, and of the three countries, Korea is the most advanced in terms of nuclear power plant operations and technology, making it the likely winner of the contract.

In addition to nuclear energy, Yoon called on the leaders to cooperate for Korean companies to secure business opportunities in new energy sectors where Korean companies are competitive, such as hydrogen. He asked for cooperation from the Czech Republic in the development of the hydrogen economy, and the Czech president expressed his hope for battery cooperation with Korea based on his country’s lithium resources.

Yoon also requested Denmark’s cooperation in offshore wind power, among other initiatives, and discussed expanding copper imports with Montenegro. He also agreed to explore clean energy cooperation with Saint Lucia.

Under the Yoon administration, KHNP and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy are making a concerted effort to restore the nuclear industry ecosystem. KHNP announced at the “Nuclear Energy Ecosystem Expo 2023” which took place at COEX in Seoul on Tuesday that it would supply large-scale nuclear projects worth 2.7 trillion won ($2.03 billion) by 2024. This includes auxiliary equipment for Shin Hanul Units 3 and 4, worth 1.9 trillion won, as well as export contracts worth 800 billion won. Earlier, the industry ministry had announced plans to supply projects worth 3.5 trillion won by the end of 2023.

At the event, KHNP also presented itself as a company that successfully overcame its crisis with governmental support and is now striving for technology development and entering the global market. The project, supported by the government’s investment of 8.9 billion won, included personnel training and the establishment of the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) industry ecosystem.

“To ensure stable electricity supply, rational power supply measures such as reviewing new nuclear power plants are being discussed in the process of establishing the 11th Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand,” according to Cheon Young-gil, head of the energy policy office at the industry ministry. “The government will provide work and financial support, while at the same time focusing on personnel training and technology development.”

Last month, the industry ministry also announced plans to order equipment for overseas projects totaling 104 items worth 800 billion won. This was thanks to Korea’s success in winning orders for the second phase of El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt and a tritium removal facility (TRF) for a nuclear power plant in Romania.

The ministry further launched a special financial program worth 150 billion won for nuclear small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) last month aimed at supporting companies facing liquidity challenges due to the impact of the previous Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out policy. It is an extension of a 200 billion won funding agreement signed between the industry ministry, state-run Korea Development Bank, and entities including KHNP and Doosan Enerbility Co. The first phase of 50 billion won was implemented in March, and an additional 150 billion won in funding was added.

This program also offers substantial financial support compared to existing financial products in terms of funding scale, interest rates, loan assessment, and loan limits. Nuclear SMEs seeking loans can receive low-interest loans at rates between 3 percent and 5 percent for up to two years after passing the Korea Development Bank’s assessment.

By Park In-hye, Park Dong-hwan, Song Gwang-sup, and Yoon Yeon-hae

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