KAERI and Hyundai Engineering to promote export of SMART SMR

13 December 2023

Hyundai Engineering CEO Hong Hyun-seong and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) President Joo Han-gyu have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly promote the commercialisation and export of KAERI’s SMART small modular reactor (SMR). Hyundai Engineering will be responsible for business development, financing and EPC (engineering, procurement & construction) for verification and commercialisation of SMART and KAERI will continue to support reactor design and licensing.

The 330MWt SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor) developed is a pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. SMART is designed for electricity generation (up to 110 MWe) as well as for thermal applications (365 MWt), such as seawater desalination, with a 60-year design life and three-year refuelling cycle. The pressuriser, cooling pump, steam generator and core are placed inside the reactor pressure vessel.

SMART received standard design approval from the Korean regulator in 2012. KAERI had planned to build a SMART demonstration plant to begin operation in 2017 but development was stalled by the absence of any orders for an initial reference unit.

Saudi Arabia had expressed interest in SMART and signed an MOU to jointly promote the SMART reactor in the global market in 2015. This followed an inter-governmental agreement with South Korea signed in 2011 on the development and implementation of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 2015, KAERI signed contracts with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KaCare) to support their cooperation in developing SMART. Korea and Saudi Arabia subsequently invested $130m to complete a pre-construction design project for the reactor.

Kepco Engineering & Construction and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in December 2018 signed an MOU to jointly develop a project to construct a plant based on SMART in Saudi Arabia and in September 2019 another MOU was signed by South Korea and Saudi Arabia including agreement to collaborate on the commercialisation of SMART and to licence and construct the first SMART unit in Saudi Arabia. South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSICT) said in early 2020 that it planned to establish a joint venture with KaCare to spearhead the construction. MSICT signed a revised pre-project engineering contract with KaCare to shorten the review process to accelerate construction of the reactor and acquire a standard design approval for easier export.

A separate agreement was also signed between South Korea’s Ministry of Science & Technology and KaCare to establish a joint nuclear energy research centre in Saudi Arabia.

In April this year, KAERI signed an MOU with the Government of Canada’s Alberta province to collaborate on deployment of SMR technology including SMART. KAERI and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in September signed another MOU establishing a partnership to collaborate in the area of civilian nuclear science and technology. KAERI said it also marked "the first step for Korea's SMR technologies into the global SMR markets".

In the future, KAERI and Hyundai Engineering will strengthen the local business base in Canada to accelerate SMART demonstration and construction projects, KAERI said. This “will be a starting point for domestic companies to proactively develop businesses with SMART technology”, said Joo. "In the future, our companies will continue to expand into overseas markets with Korea's unique SMR technology. We will spare no effort in providing support so that we can actively advance into the market."

"Starting with Canada, which is implementing energy conversion to SMR, in the future we will expand to Uzbekistan and the United States. We are also considering expanding into markets such as India, a Hyundai Engineering official said. “Through this business agreement, preparations for SMART's full-scale overseas exports will be completed, further accelerating overseas business development."

Image: Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute President Joo Han-gyu (left) and Hyundai Engineering CEO Hong Hyun-seong at the signing ceremony (courtesy of KAERI)

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