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South Korea-Jordan sign $130M nuclear deal

March 31, 2010 at 3:01 PM   |   Comments

SEOUL, March 31 (UPI) -- A South Korean consortium led by state-run Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company has struck a $130 million deal to build a nuclear research reactor in Jordan.

The agreement calls for a 5-megawatt reactor, a radioactive isotope manufacturing facility and a nuclear training center at the Jordan University for Science and Technology.

Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, praised South Korea for "the world's best technology in nuclear research reactors," The Jordan Times reports.

Jordan selected the South Korean consortium -- led by state-run Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. -- last December after evaluating bids from Russia, China and Argentina.

The Jordan agreement represents the second nuclear reactor deal for South Korea in the Middle East. Last December, a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. reached a $20 billion agreement to provide four reactors of 1,400-megawatts in the United Arab Emirates, winning out over bidders from the United States, France and Japan.

After Seoul signed that deal, South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge said it expects to build at least 80 power reactors in other countries by 2030.

"We are a latecomer to this industry … but we can become the most trusted country among reactor exporters in five to 10 years," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in January.

Construction on the Jordan plant is expected to begin in June, with the first 18 months focusing on environmental and seismic feasibility studies. The reactor is expected to be online and operational by 2015, said Ned Xoubi, a commissioner with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission and head of the nuclear research reactor project.

"From design to construction and operation, this project will be achieved 100 percent with our domestic technology," said South Korean Education Minister Ahn Byung-man, one of the South Korean officials on hand for the signing ceremony in Jordan, The Korea Times reports.

"This means our nuclear technology has earned global recognition," Ahn said.

Under the agreement, Jordan has exclusive rights to re-export the technology after 20 years. This could lead to the development of a local nuclear industry, officials indicated.

Jordan could follow the path of South Korea, which entered the nuclear power sector with a 100-kilowatt nuclear research reactor in the 1950s. It now operates 20 reactors domestically.

The world's fifth largest oil importer, South Korea relies on atomic power for nearly 40 percent of its electricity supply, more than double the average global rate of 15 percent.

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