Korea and UAE agree to expand nuclear cooperation

16 January 2023

South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to "deepen and accelerate collaboration in the peaceful nuclear energy sector". Several memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed during a meeting between Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nayhan.

President Yoon Seok-yeol's state visit included a visit to the Barakah nuclear power plant (Image: Office of the President)

Yoon met with Al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on 15 January whilst on a state visit to the UAE. This marked the first state visit since the establishment of diplomatic ties between South Korea and the UAE in 1980 and the 10th visit to the UAE by a Korean president. During his visit, Yoon visited the Barakah nuclear power plant, supplied by Korea.

"During the summit, the two leaders agreed to deepen and further develop the Special Strategic Partnership between the two countries," a joint statement said. "In particular, the two leaders agreed to strengthen strategic cooperation in four key areas: conventional energy and clean energy, peaceful nuclear energy, economy and investment, and defence and defence technology; as well as in other areas of mutual interest, including space, emerging industries and culture."

A total of 13 cooperation agreements in the fields of nuclear power, energy, investment, defence industry, and climate change were signed in the presence of the heads of the two countries.

"Recognising the importance of nuclear power plants as a critical source of energy security and an important element for the growth of the clean economy, and given the existing deep level of cooperation achieved in this area, the two leaders expressed their determination to deepen and accelerate collaboration in the peaceful nuclear energy sector, both by successfully completing the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant project and by jointly pursuing additional nuclear projects, whether in the UAE or third countries," the joint statement said.

It added: "The two leaders welcomed further cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear energy through the UAE-ROK High-level Consultation on Nuclear Cooperation and agreed to seek ways to expand this cooperation into new areas, including evaluating the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs)."

The agreements signed included a Net-Zero Acceleration Strategic Cooperation MoU between Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). Through the signing of the MOU, ENEC and KHNP plan to form a consultative body in various fields in the future and expand practical cooperation in the field of developing export markets for nuclear power plants in third countries and joint procurement of business finance. In addition, the two companies plan to cooperate closely in future technology development and R&D joint research, such as SMRs and micro-reactors.

"This MoU is very meaningful in that it has taken the first important step in achieving carbon neutrality and securing energy security through nuclear power and future technologies," said KHNP CEO Hwang Joo-ho. "We will actively cooperate to move toward a partnership of future net-zero technology cooperation in various fields such as hydrogen."

Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) also signed an administrative agreement with the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). This agreement "stipulates the obligations related to nuclear safety measures and export controls between the two countries, and has the effect of simplifying the nuclear export permit procedure between the two countries," NSSC said. "With the conclusion of this administrative agreement, the NSSC and FANR can directly handle nuclear export permits."

"I think it is very meaningful that cooperation between the two organisations over the past ten years has yielded a new fruit in the signing of an administrative agreement with the summit meeting between the two countries," said NSSC Chairman Yoo Kook-hee. "We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in the future."

Under a USD20 billion deal announced in December 2009, four Korean-designed APR1400 reactors are being built at Barakah by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation. First concrete for Barakah 1 was poured in July 2012, while that for units 2-4 was poured in April 2013, September 2014 and July 2015, respectively. The first three of these units were connected to the grid in August 2020, September 2021 and October 2022, respectively.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News