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Parts and materials technology development
Minister Lee holds Nuclear Energy Industry Conference 2022-06-23

Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) Minister Lee Chang-yang held the Nuclear Energy Industry Business Conference in Changwon, Gyeongnam on June 22 to discuss solutions to nuclear energy ecosystem challenges with aim to rebuild Korea into a global nuclear powerhouse. 

With nuclear energy regaining global attention in light of power security and carbon neutrality, major nations are already deeply invested in the fierce competition for future nuclear energy hegemony. For instance, the U.S. is investing USD 6 billion into long-term operation beyond design life; France’s plans are set in stone for six new reactors, with eight more underway; there are a total of 70 SMRs (small modular reactors) under development worldwide.

Maintaining vitality of the nuclear power ecosystem is key in quickly responding to these global trends, but the social and industrial push nationwide for Korea until recently has been towards phasing out of nuclear energy. As a result, revenues, exports and human resources of the nuclear power sector have plummeted across-the-board, and the current regime is addressing the prompt building of both workforce and competitiveness as urgent tasks to achieve in recovering the ecosystem’s vibrancy.

Accordingly, the Ministry’s support program for the nuclear energy sector includes the following.

First, the Ministry aims to source KRW 92.5 billion worth of business projects for the nuclear energy sector, including reconstruction of New Hanwul nuclear power plant units 3 and 4. The goal is to inject over a trillion won worth of project orders by 2025, and accelerate the order process for New Hanwul units, which are expected to create a mass of project orders.

The Ministry’s second goal is to maintain a steady stream of project orders supply and keep fueling growth. For example, for the Czech Republic, Poland and other countries closer in proximity, the Government can arrange special package orders and focus on high-level government projects, while expanding the range of exports to offering equipment, materials, operation and services as well. Moreover, plans include the launching of a “Nuclear Energy Exports Strategy Task Force” in July, as a public-private joint control tower.

Third, the Ministry is looking forward to supplying 380 billion won of liquidity to the market in 2022 in the form of SME funding, technology guarantees and subcontractor loans. A consulting desk will have financial institutions making site visits, as well as a “Nuclear Energy Competitiveness Task Force” to tackle the industry’s hands-on challenges.

Fourth, the Ministry will invest over 670 billion won this year in nuclear R&D, and over 3 trillion won through 2023-2025. Based on an in-depth analysis of the nuclear industry value chain by December, localization and development of core equipment and materials will be the central investment item. Additional investment areas include safety and MPE (materials, parts, equipment).

Fifth, the Ministry encourages wider participation of universities and colleges in nuclear R&D for training up a quality pool of researchers. Creating a high-level radioactive waste major in 2023 can raise up around 20 trained individuals with master’s and doctoral degrees on an annual basis.

Sixth, the Ministry will concentrate 399.2 billion won in developing and commercializing Korea’s unique i-SMRs (innovative SMRs) by 2028. Global marketing for i-SMR promotion, and collaboration with leading foreign companies are expected to propel domestic companies forward early into the basic stages of the SMR global supply chain.

With respect to SMEs, the Ministry intends to provide 100 billion won for emergency funding and support insolvent companies together with the help of commercial banks and Korea SMEs Startups Agency.

At the conference, Doosan Enerbility presented their measures to train up expert subcontractor technicians, expand mutual growth fund loans and long-term supply MOU agreements.

MOTIE and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups will assist industry businesses so that they can overcome present obstacles and once again rise to the title of nuclear energy powerhouse.