EU-South Korean deal to benefit nuclear power sector

22 October 2009

The European Commission has unveiled details of how a new trade agreement between South Korea and the European Union (EU) will benefit the nuclear energy sector. The deal should boost trade in equipment and fuel inputs in both Europe and South Korea.


Notably, upon ratification of the agreement, 5.7% duties on EU imports of South Korean nuclear reactors will disappear, as will 3.7% tariffs on machinery and apparatus for isotopic separation; fuel elements and nuclear reactor parts; and 2.7% duties on a wide range of water boilers that could be fitted into EU nuclear power plants.


Thorium cermets (composite materials composed of ceramic and metallic materials) imported into the EU from South Korea currently attract 5.5% duties. Under the new agreement, these would be scrapped, as would 5.5% duties on heavy water, deuterium and compounds; hydrogen and compounds thereof, enriched in deuterium; and mixtures and solutions containing these products, strontium and barium.


This agreement's text proclaimed the deal "will create a new climate for the development of trade and investment between the parties," given that it removes duties on a comprehensive list of products and services. The nuclear sector will see trade liberalisation more quickly than many other economic sectors, for which tariffs will be phased out over a number of years under 17 different kinds of schedule.


Its potential importance is underpinned by the extensive use of nuclear power in the EU and South Korea, which has 20 operational nuclear power reactors and a further six under construction. A European Commission communiqué said: "The agreement will create substantial new trade in goods and services (up to €19 billion [$28.4 billion] for EU exporters, according to one study)."


Uranium is already imported into the EU from South Korea duty free. Also South Korean customs authorities do not charge duty on imports of thorium, uranium, nuclear reactors and parts exported from the EU and this free trade status will remain unchanged as a result of this agreement.