UAE awards $20-billion nuclear power contract to Korean consortium

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has awarded a South Korean consortium a prized $20-billion deal to build nuclear reactors in the oil-rich country.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates has awarded a South Korean consortium a prized $20-billion deal to build nuclear reactors in the oil-rich country.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. said Sunday it chose the Korean team because it was “best equipped to fulfil the government’s partnership requirements.” The state-run company valued the deal for four 1,400-megawatt reactors at about $20 billion.

The winning bid, led by Korea Electric Power Corp., beat out proposals from a French team and one led by the United States and Japan. The Korean consortium includes Samsung, Hyundai, Doosan Heavy Industries, Japan’s Toshiba and Westinghouse, the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.

“We look forward to a long and productive relationship as we work toward powering the future growth of the UAE with low-carbon, peaceful nuclear energy,” ENEC chief executive Mohamed al-Hammadi said in a statement.

The UAE is the world’s third largest oil exporter but must import natural gas to run many of its existing power plants. It says its energy needs are expected to almost double by 2020.

The United States earlier this year signed an agreement with the UAE for the country to import, rather than produce, fuel for its nuclear reactors. The Emirates committed not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel into plutonium, which is used in nuclear bombs.

Washington had promoted its plan to help the UAE develop peaceful nuclear power as a model of the kind of co-operation it would like to achieve with Iran, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is using a civilian program as a cover to develop an atomic weapons capability.

The UAE sits just across the Persian Gulf from Iran. Although the Arab state has long-standing commercial and cultural ties to Iran, it is also wary of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The deal marks the first time that South Korea has exported a nuclear power plant. The Asian country’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said the deal is expected to bring South Korea a total of about $40 billion from building the nuclear reactors and participating in their operation.

The ministry hailed the deal as the biggest single contract that the country has ever won overseas.

The deal “is seen as resulting from the UAE’s high appreciation for the competitiveness of Korean nuclear reactors,” the ministry said in a statement.

South Korea first introduced atomic power in 1978 and now has 20 nuclear reactors in operation. The country relies on atomic power for about 40 per cent of its electricity.

The Emirates has said it plans to begin construction on its nuclear plants in 2012.

ENEC said the first reactor should begin providing electricity in 2017. The remaining units are expected to come online by 2020.