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December 28, 2009

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Home » Business » Energy

S. Korean group wins US$20b UAE deal to build nuke reactors

SOUTH Korea said yesterday it had won a US$20 billion deal from the United Arab Emirates to build four nuclear reactors, one of the world's biggest nuclear power contracts.

A South Korean consortium expects to earn another US$20 billion by jointly operating the reactors for 60 years.

The figures are in line with what industry sources told Reuters in the UAE earlier yesterday.

The first reactor will be completed in 2017 to produce power and the others will be completed by 2020, the Korean presidential Blue House said in a statement.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was expected to sign the deal with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan later yesterday, sources said.

The consortium includes Korea Electric Power Corp, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung C&T Corp and Doosan Heavy Industries. The South Korean group beat a French consortium and another group of companies from the United States and Japan.

Nascent nuclear programs in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have fueled concerns of a regional arms race.

But the UAE has pledged to import the fuel it needs for reactors rather than attempting to enrich uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants. Uranium further refined can be used to make nuclear bombs, and taking enrichment out of the nuclear program reduces the possibility of weapons development.

Work on the first nuclear plant in the Gulf Arab region will begin in 2012.

The UAE is the world's third-largest oil exporter and is looking to nuclear power to meet rapidly rising electricity consumption. Petrodollar-fueled economic growth has left the Gulf Arab state struggling to meet domestic power demand.

Abu Dhabi is driving the UAE nuclear program. The emirate holds most of the UAE's crude reserves, and has managed to avoid the worst of the global economic slowdown as well as the debt crisis that has hit neighboring emirate Dubai.

The UAE plans to build three or four nuclear reactors in a first fleet to help meet the rise in power demand.


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