South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has announced plans to create a small modular reactor (SMR) industrial complex in the southeastern city of Gyeongju and a hydrogen industrial cluster in the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province to foster the emerging energy sector and boost the local economy.

He was speaking during the 26th debate forum on improving people’s livelihoods in Gyeongsan, held under the theme of making North Gyeongsang Province a manufacturing hub for cutting-edge technologies.

Yoon pledged support for an SMR industrial complex worth KRW300bn ($216.9m) in Gyeongju through the establishment of a nuclear power industry growth fund and the development of related infrastructure. This initiative aims to secure cutting-edge SMR manufacturing technology, fostering domestic capabilities and potentially positioning South Korea as a global leader in SMR production.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy will create a KRW80bn fund by 2025 to bolster the growth of the nuclear power industry. This financial support will facilitate infrastructure development, technology advancement, and prototype production, ultimately strengthening Gyeongbuk’s SMR manufacturing prowess.

In addition, the Shin Hanul NPP will proceed with the construction of units 3&4 in North Gyeongsang Province as planned. The APR1400 reactors, which had their design work halted in 2017, are expected to play a pivotal role in revitalising the nuclear power industry ecosystem and to drive new industrialisation in the region.

Yoon added that the establishment of a Hydrogen Economy Industrial Belt worth KRW800bn on the eastern coast, which will include the construction of hydrogen pipelines and funding through industry growth funds. The government has been urging construction of a hydrogen fuel cell cluster in Pohang and a nuclear hydrogen national industrial complex in Uljin, both located in North Gyeongsang Province.

Construction of the KRW400bn Uljin Nuclear Hydrogen National Industrial Complex, initiated in 2022, reflects South Korea’s commitment to promoting hydrogen as a future energy source. To expedite progress, the government has decided to exempt the project from preliminary tariffs.

The president also outlined plans for an R&D centre for system semiconductor design verification in an industrial complex in Gumi by 2026. To improve transportation infrastructure, the government will expedite the construction of an 18 kilometre highway traversing Yeongil Bay in Pohang, with a budget of KRW3,400bn, and to accelerate the construction of other expressway projects in the province. He unveiled the plan to invest KRW150bn to build a Startup Park in Gyeongsan and Incubating Centre for Advanced Manufacturing in Pohang, supported by a KRW30bn venture fund.