The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korea Electric Power Cooperation (Kepco) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to bolster research and investment opportunities in nuclear energy in emerging countries.

The MOU was signed at a ceremony in Seoul by ENEC Managing Director & CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi and Kepco President & CEO Dong-Cheol Kim. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed AL Nahyan attended the ceremony.

ENEC said the partnership marks “the next step in the two nations’ collaboration to spearhead nuclear energy development in other countries by providing the relevant expertise to accelerate the deployment of this crucial source of clean baseload electricity”. The partners “will explore co-investing in the establishment of nuclear energy plants globally and seek to address the instrumental role nuclear energy plays in addressing climate change and achieving net-zero targets”.

A consortium led by Kepco has constructed four Korean-designed APR1400 reactors at the Barakah NPP in the UAE under a $20bn agreement signed in December 2009. The plant was built within budget and on schedule. First concrete for Barakah 1 was poured in July 2012 and for units 2-4 in April 2013, September 2014 and July 2015. Unit 1 began commercial operation in April 2021, unit 2 in March 2022 and unit 3 in February 2023. Unit 4 is scheduled to enter commercial operation later in 2024.

ENEC said the Barakah plant is the flagship project of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Programme, with the company “now focused on exploring opportunities in the UAE and overseas in large-scale plants, SMRs and advanced reactors, related clean technologies such as hydrogen generation and R&D to maximise the full value of the expertise developed in nuclear mega project programme delivery, capacity building and technology deployment”.

The new agreementbuilds on its and Kepco’s expertise in various fields, including “the efficient, safety and quality-led development and implementation of nuclear energy plants, and the significant transmission and distribution infrastructure required to integrate into national grids”.

Kepco said the global NPP market is changing from “a pure construction project (EPC) method, in which ordering countries build nuclear power plants with their own resources, to a method that requires operators to participate in a certain level of financing”. It added: “Accordingly, the ability to raise financial resources is emerging as one of the key factors for business success. If we combine the strengths of Korea and the UAE, which can carry out profitable nuclear power projects through this MOU, we will be able to secure a differentiated comparative advantage over competing countries in the global nuclear power plant market.”

According to Kepco President Kim Dong-cheol: “As the overseas nuclear power plant export business is a national competition … a trustworthy partner like the UAE is absolutely necessary in the fierce overseas nuclear power plant export competition. With the signing of this MOU, we will do our best to create a success story for the second nuclear power plant export.”

ENEC a few days later signed an MOU with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to explore opportunities to collaborate and ensure best practice in the development, operation and maintenance of civil nuclear energy plants. The MOU was signed in Beijing by ENEC Managing Director & CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi and CNNC Chairman Yu Jianfeng.

It establishes a framework for collaboration in short and long-term fuel cycle procurement, developing best practices in operation and maintenance (O&M) of civil nuclear energy facilities, nuclear environmental protection and other areas of mutual interest – including the development of new NPPs, research & development and exploring future areas of cooperation for benchmarking and knowledge sharing.

R&D collaboration includes exploring the development of a nuclear technology centre, cooperation on Generation IV reactors and hydrogen production technology and the use of nuclear energy for desalination.

The agreement builds on previous cooperation including an MOU signed in December 2023 at COP28, outlining on new nuclear energy plants in third countries and the deployment of advanced reactor technologies. Also, at COP28, ENEC and CNNC signed an MOU to explore cooperation opportunities for the development of High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) setting out the pathway for HTGR technology development and the potential to deploy that technology in other countries.