South Korea lays groundwork for African nuclear push

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Nuclear power firms from South Korea are lining as much as win enterprise from Africa as governments on the continent contemplate the suitability of nuclear energy for assembly their long-term power wants.

South Korean utility Korean Hydro & Nuclear Energy (KHNP) introduced its i-SMR know-how at COP28 this week, which it says ought to obtain normal design approval by 2028. The agency signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ugandan authorities earlier this 12 months, whereas the corporate’s CEO Hwang Joo-ho gave a keynote tackle to a nuclear convention in Kampala.

Bum-Jin Chung, president of the Korea Nuclear Society, says that Hwang’s go to to Uganda represents a “stable sign” that the corporate is severe about advancing its plans within the nation. He notes that Uganda’s energy system just isn’t but prepared to soak up the amount of electrical energy delivered by a large-scale reactor, however says that by 2040, when energy demand may have greater than doubled, nuclear power can be extremely engaging.

“Nuclear energy would be the most cost-effective possibility,” he says, noting the benefits of nuclear in offering a secure supply of baseload energy. “Nuclear energy could be very costly by way of the preliminary funding,” he admits, however provides that “as soon as it’s, as soon as it’s constructed, then the working and upkeep prices could be very low cost”.

South Korea itself has relied closely on nuclear energy to allow its personal industrial development. The nation is the world’s fifth-largest producer of nuclear power and has undertaken a significant export drive lately. A number of Korean firms, together with KHNP and the Korea Electrical Energy Company (KEPCO), had been a part of a consortium that constructed the UAE’s first nuclear energy station, which started working in 2020.

Nuclear hyperlinks

Because the world makes an attempt to combat local weather change whereas growing power entry, the nuclear possibility is on the agenda. Greater than 20 governments worldwide, together with Ghana, signed a pledge at COP28 earlier this week to triple nuclear power era capability by 2050.

Just one nuclear energy plant, in South Africa, is at present operational on the continent. However a second facility is underneath development in Egypt and a number of other different African nations, together with Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria, have proven severe curiosity in becoming a member of the nuclear membership.

A number of obstacles have to be overcome earlier than nuclear energy will be deployed extra extensively in Africa. Many critics are unconvinced that nuclear will ever be a viable possibility for many African nations, given the large prices and prolonged development intervals wanted for large-scale reactors. Environmental and safety dangers are additionally main issues.

Chung says that the grids of most African nations are usually not prepared for a large-scale nuclear reactor. However he says that the emergence of know-how for small modular reactors, which ship a lot much less energy than a standard different, can allow nuclear power for use extra extensively in Africa. A rustic comparable to Rwanda, he says, which is a few years away from with the ability to take up the electrical energy generated in a large-scale reactor, might probably flip to SMRs within the comparatively close to future.

South Korean firms face intense competitors for a slice of the African nuclear market. Russia’s state-owned Rosatom has already constructing Egypt’s El Dabaa nuclear energy plant and has solid hyperlinks with a number of African governments. Rosatom, together with its Chinese language counterparts, is commonly capable of present a package deal deal that features financing to make its supply extra engaging to governments.

Whereas firms like KHNP can’t match this supply, Chung factors out that Rosatom could have already got overstretched itself and isn’t in a position to attract on an infinite provide of presidency funding.

In the meantime, Seoul has lengthy been proactive in forging ties with Africa’s nascent nuclear trade. Chung factors out that a lot of Africa’s nuclear engineers had been educated in South Korea and “have a connection” with the nation. Of the 25 workers on the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority, 5 had been educated in South Korean, together with six or seven of the 45 workers members on the nation’s Nuclear Energy and Power Company.


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