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Korean firm in nuclear plant talks with Turkey

SEOUL - Bloomberg | 1/20/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Korea Electric Power Corp. is in discussions with at least five countries, including Turkey, to build nuclear-power plants.

Korea Electric Power Corp., or KEPCO, is in discussions with at least five countries, including Turkey, to build nuclear-power plants after winning a $20 billion order from the United Arab Emirates last month, a company official said.

“We’re in serious talks with Turkey, Jordan and Malaysia and we have attracted China and India’s interest,” Chung Kun Mo, a nuclear adviser to the South Korean state-run utility, said in an interview at his office in Seoul on Tuesday. “There are many countries knocking on our door. Even Kenya is interested.”

KEPCO shares have gained 21 percent since a group led by the company won the U.A.E. contract on Dec. 27, beating Areva and General Electric. South Korea, aiming to secure $400 billion of nuclear plant contracts by 2030, should also tap electricity generation demand from African nations, Chung said.

“Developing markets including African countries would be a good target for South Korea as they lack experience and need more power capacity to meet demand,” said Choi Won Kyung, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities. “Korea Electric can win at least one order every year after successfully building the U.A.E. plants. The pie is getting bigger.”

KEPCO is capable of building reactors cheaper and quicker than international rivals because the company has been adding nuclear generators at home “almost every year,” while the rest of the world took a cautious view on atomic energy over the past quarter of a century, said Chung, a former South Korean Science and Technology Minister who currently also advises the U.A.E. on nuclear power.

The cost of building Korea Electric’s APR1400 reactor is $2,300 per kilowatt, compared with $2,900 for Areva’s EPR and Japan’s ABWR, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said on Jan. 13.

The average operation rate of South Korea’s 20 commercial reactors reached 93.3 percent in 2008, according to government data. That’s higher than the 89.9 percent rate in the U.S. and 76.1 percent in France, the world’s top nuclear-energy users. Atomic power accounts for almost 40 percent of South Korea’s electricity supply, more than double the global rate of 15 percent.

Most countries either scrapped or stalled nuclear-power plans after the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion. Poland rejected proposals to go nuclear after the accident in the former Soviet Union. The Italians voted to shut the country’s atomic plants in a 1987 referendum.

As of Dec. 1, 435 reactors are operating in the world, while 53 are under construction and 299 are expected to start up mostly within 15 years, according the World Nuclear Association.

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