Korea, Saudi Arabia to push for nuclear reactor cooperation

Korea, Saudi Arabia to push for nuclear reactor cooperation

RIYADH - Leaders of South Korea and Saudi Arabia agreed on Tuesday to seek opportunities to build more than two small- and medium-sized nuclear reactors in the Gulf nation to forge bilateral cooperation in atomic energy ― projects that may be worth as much as $2 billion (S$2.7 billion).

During the summit talks, President Park Geun-hye and the newly crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud discussed ways to upgrade bilateral relations by strengthening cooperation in energy, creative economy, investment, medical services and information technology.

Park arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, after wrapping up a three-day visit to Kuwait. Saudi Arabia is second destination of her four-nation Middle East trip, which will also include UAE and Qatar.

After the summit, the two leaders observed the signing of a memorandum of understanding aimed at developing South Korea's SMART reactors and commercializing its technology in order to jointly enter the global market.

The SMART reactors, designed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, was developed to target the Middle Eastern countries as it generates electric power and also desalinates sea water.

Under the agreement, the two countries are set to conduct a three-year preliminary study by 2018 to review the feasibility of constructing SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia.

"The agreement is expected to open opportunities for South Korean firms to participate in Saudi Arabia's nuclear reactor project," said An Chong-bum, Park's senior secretary for economic affairs.

With the agreement, the South Korean government expects to win US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) worth of nuclear reactor deals in Saudi Arabia and additional orders in the future.

If realised, it will be the world's first case of small- and medium-sized reactors being exported to a foreign country, officials said.

The world's largest producer and exporter of oil plans to build more than 12 18-gigawatt nuclear power plants by 2040 to prepare for growing domestic demand for electricity and to secure new energy sources.

Taking advantage of Park's visit to Saudi Arabia, the two sides agreed to introduce South Korea's vision of a creative economy aimed at nurturing creative ideas and assimilating them with ICT, science and technology and other industries.

On the business level, representatives agreed to establish a medical centre specialising in women's cancer and a pharmaceutical industry complex.

The leaders also exchanged their views on security issues and agreed to cooperate on bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is a South Korean ally that has no diplomatic ties with North Korea.

Later in the afternoon, the South Korean president met Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, second in line to the throne of Saudi Arabia, to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

On her second day in Saudi Arabia, Park plans to meet Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, chairman of Kingdom Holding Co. of Saudi Arabia and popularly known as the Warren Buffett of the Middle East.

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