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A Major Eurasian Push
For Nuclear Power Development

Jan. 4, 2010 (EIRNS)—A South Korea consortium has just won a large contract for four 1,400-megawatt nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, over a rival consortium led by France's Areva Group. The contract, said to be worth $20 billion in direct construction and initial operation, with perhaps another $20 billion in follow-up and associated work, is Korea's first export contract, and represents a breakthrough in a nuclear power success story of almost 40 years.

In 1971, when construction began on Korea's first nuclear power plant in Gori, South Gyeongsang Province, the country's own builders were not yet trained in such pioneer technology projects. In fact, while the U.S. Westinghouse company was building and testing Korea's first and second nuclear plants, Korean technicians were not even allowed access to key areas, and had to virtually learn from looking over the shoulders of American engineers.

"Now it [Korea] has mastered almost the entire technology and exports it.... Behind the feat are the efforts and sacrifices of many scientists, researchers and technicians.... A lot of blood, sweat and sheer determination went into Korea mastering the technology," Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported on Dec. 29, in a review of this process, with justifiable pride. The government, according to Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, who was at the signing ceremony in the UAE, will develop a master plan for making nuclear power generation one of the country's leading export industries, along with autos, ships, and information technology.

In line with that goal, the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) has announced plans to open the world's first graduate school dedicated exclusively to nuclear power plant studies in 2012. Participating companies, including four affiliates of KEPCO, will provide financing and training of the teaching staff, so as to host a mix of local and foreign students at the International Nuclear Graduate School.

Korea's offensive is in line with the dynamic launched by the major Eurasian powers for rapid expansion of nuclear energy development. Not only was nuclear power a key aspect of the Russia-China agreements of October, but, since that time, India and Russia have reached new expanded nuclear agreements, as have Japan and India. Even Australia is considering getting in on the act, with the announcement by its Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) that the country should produce 10 nuclear plants over the next 20 years. (It presently has only one, for medical and research purposes.)