By Kang Doo-soon and Kim Hyo-jin
South Korea is close to clinching its second mega-scale nuclear reactor deal with its state-sponsored entity named as the preferred bidder for a $20 billion project to construct nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom on behalf of Toshiba Corp.
Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said on Wednesday its nuclear reactor operating unit Korea Hydro & Nuclear Corp. was chosen as the preferred bidder to buy out the full stake in the NuGeneration consortium from Japan’s Toshiba.
The $20 billion Moorside project involves building three next-generation nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 3 gigawatts in Cumbria, northwest England. The target completion date is 2025.
Shares of KEPCO closed Thursday up 1.04 percent at 38,850 won ($35.50).
Toshiba put up its stake in the NuGen project for sale to pull out of the bankrupt nuclear business that gathered colossal losses following its $5.4 billion buyout of U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse in 2006.
The U.K, which relies on nuclear power for 20 percent of its electricity, is a huge market for reactors as most of its generators are aged and near the end of their operational life.
Competition for the Moorside project narrowed down to Korea and China, and the Korean trade minister flew to Britain to pitch for the country’s indigenous reactor technology that had won a $20 billion deal from the United Arab Emirates in 2009. Korea’s homegrown third-generation standard Advanced Power Reactor boasts 1,400-megawatt electricity generation capacity with a 60-year lifespan.
China General Nuclear (CGN), which already owns a stake in another UK nuclear project, was deemed a strong contender as it was fully backed by Beijing’s nuclear export ambitions.
KEPCO has recently turned eager in exporting its proprietary reactor model to save the hard-built technology after President Moon Jae-in vowed to wean the country away from nuclear and fossil fuel.
Sources said KEPCO’s proven ability to keep the UAE project on time and on budget may have been an influential factor in swinging the vote.
The latest feat will likely work favorably for other bids in South Africa and the Middle East as well as other parts of Europe.
Meanwhile, KEPCO CEO Cho Hwan-eik offered to resign with three months left in his second term after the British deal was announced, saying he wished to pave the way for a younger generation. Cho, who began his first term in 2012 to serve for the longest period in the state utility firm, is credited for overseeing the UAE project and improving the company’s bottom line by moving headquarters out of Seoul and launching renewable energy business.