|President Moon Jae-in pays for a box of dried mackerel, a specialty of Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, during a visit to Pohang Jukdo Market, Thursday. Moon visited the southeastern coastal city to attend an inaugural forum on economic cooperation between South Korea and Russia. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul
President Moon Jae-in plans to support South Korea's bid to win a contract to build a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. This is seen as the government wanting to keep domestic nuclear reactor technology competitive internationally, officials said Thursday.
At a recent meeting with floor leaders of the country's five parties _ including the ruling Democratic Party Korea (DPK) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) _ Moon said the government will initiate programs to keep local nuclear reactor technology afloat internationally.
"The question is how to protect and defend the national interest by helping domestic nuclear power companies win contracts for the construction of nuclear plants in other countries," one official told The Korea Times, wishing to remain anonymous.
"This is a separate issue compared to the government's move to use natural gas and renewables in order to maintain its policy of gradually retiring nuclear-generated power."
President Moon said earlier the government will continue to phase out nuclear power plants.
Cheong Wa Dae said the handling of nuclear reactor-related issues has recently been transferred to its economic affairs team, giving leader Yoon Jong-won, a presidential senior secretary, full responsibility.
The remarks came after the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) said it was looking to win a lucrative nuclear-reactor deal in the Czech Republic after the central European country said it was evaluating "lots of options" to phase out coal-burning plants and reduce carbon emissions.
"Assistance from Cheong Wa Dae is required for the KHNP to win the nuclear construction contracts in the Czech Republic," another official said. "The presidential economic affairs team has acknowledged this issue, as the deal, if it happens, will help local suppliers."
The KHNP is building a nuclear plant for the United Arab Emirates at Barakah. The Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) is discussing with the United Kingdom a multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plant construction deal there.
President Moon's drive to move away from nuclear energy to environmentally friendly renewables has been accelerated by deteriorating air quality and safety concerns.
But the country's nuclear reactor suppliers are feeling a sense of crisis as the policy will jeopardize their ability to export nuclear technology by hurting their market credibility.
The Czech government was to decide on how to finance and build new nuclear reactors at the Temelin power plant by the end of the year. Companies from Russia, the United States and China are chasing the contract. The Czech Republic is betting on nuclear energy, which now accounts for about 40 percent of its power output.