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India and South Korea to cooperate on nuclear power?

Jan. 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM   |   Comments

NEW DELHI, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to seek nuclear power deals during her four-day state visit to India, which began Wednesday.

"South Korea has a track record of successfully building and operating nuclear power plants. There has been no major accidents in Korea since commercial operations began in 1978. Korea can be a good partner for India in its nuclear business," Park told India's Doordarshan TV last week.

The two countries inked a civilian nuclear pact in 2011.

Since taking office in February, the South Korean president has vowed to support domestic companies' exports of nuclear plants and equipment, reports the Wall Street Journal.

So far, South Korea has inked one overseas reactor deal, a $20 billion contract in 2009 to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, it has faced competition from bigger rivals, including Japan, France and Russia.

South Korea, which ranks fifth globally in terms of electricity generation from nuclear power, operates 23 commercial nuclear reactors. Last year, nuclear power accounted for 26 percent of the country's total power supply.

But its domestic nuclear power sector has been tarnished by a scandal over fake safety certificates.

On Tuesday, the South Korean government approved a plan to reduce its target for nuclear power generation to 29 percent of total power supply by 2035, down from the 41 percent called for by the previous government.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at a ceremony Monday to lay the foundation stone for a 2,800 megawatt nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, noted that India now has an installed capacity of 4,800 megawatts of nuclear power generation and aims to increase that to 27,000 megawatts within the next decade.

"To meet our energy needs and in particular to increase the production of nuclear power, we need international cooperation," he said.

Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, officially raised the issue of South Korea building a nuclear power plant in India during a meeting with Singh in 2012.

Seoul indicated its interest in building a nuclear plant in India during a recent visit to India by a delegation from its ministry of science, Press Trust of India reports.

"Like India, Korea too has developed its own nuclear technology and there are many aspects of cooperation, which India is looking at to start with," an unnamed Indian official was quoted as saying by Press Trust Monday. "We are primarily looking at cooperation in research and development."

Press Trust cited another official as saying that cost-wise, South Korea is more competitive than what the United States or the French are offering, but India wants to proceed slowly because of pending projects. India's current nuclear power projects are running behind schedule.

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