Korea to the Rescue?

Let’s play join the dots. 

The Ontario government announced last week a deal negotiated in secret with Samsung and KEPCO (Korean Electric Power Company) to build wind turbines and solar panels in Ontario. Some will be installed to generate power in the province buoyed by the available green energy subsidies and others will be manufactured for export.

KEPCO has just sold four of its APR-1400 reactors to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for about $20 billion US   under a mostly fixed price contract. Around $5 billion a copy is a real bargain price for a Generation III+ reactor.  This sale is the first shot in an ambitious campaign announced by the Korean government to capture 20% of the world reactor market. Incidentally, losing this sale was a real blow to AREVA who were outcompeted by the Koreans and one can guess that the days of the no longer formidable Anne Lauvergeon as AREVA CEO are numbered.

The APR-1400 is an advanced light water reactor based on a design by Combustion Engineering called the System 80. The Koreans have used System 80 as the basis for a domestic Generation III reactor, the OPR-1000, of which six are operation and four under construction. The APR-1400 is essentially a System 80+ design. Two are now under construction in Korea with six more planned.   

As our readers will recall, Korea operates four AECL built CANDU 6 reactors at its Wolsung power station. The first of them, on stream in 1983, is now being refurbished in part by AECL.  Canada and Korea have a continuing close and productive collaboration in the nuclear area arising from the Wolsung projects.

Another recent development was the positive outlook for the sale of a HANARO research reactor from Korea to Jordan. Sales of research reactors are also part of Korea’s aggressive marketing plan. The essential technology for HANARO was transferred to Korea by AECL during the negotiations for the sale of the last three Wolsung CANDUs. Although as I understand it, HANARO doesn’t mean “Maple that works” in Korean that’s exactly what it is.

I see a real constellation of possibilities offered by the above.

  • Is the APR-1400 a feasible power reactor choice for Ontario?
  • Would a HANARO reactor be a feasible research and isotope production platform for Canada?
  • Is KEPCO an aggressive and successful player that could take over AECL and run with it?  

I believe that the answers are, if not a straight “yes”, at least a “let’s seriously look at it”. Given the penchant for secrecy, perhaps unknown to us these ideas are already being considered by governments. In any case, Korea would make an excellent nuclear partner for Canada.