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U.S. puts brakes on Korea’s nuclear power plant export to Czech

U.S. puts brakes on Korea’s nuclear power plant export to Czech

Posted April. 06, 2023 08:06,   

Updated April. 06, 2023 08:06


The U.S. government has put the brakes on exports of Korean nuclear power plants to the Czech Republic. Since the Korean nuclear power plants relied on some of the technology of the U.S. nuclear power plant company Westinghouse, it is considered to mean that Korea should agree with this company to sell nuclear power plants to other countries. If this problem remains unresolved, the Korean government’s goal of “exporting ten nuclear power plants by 2030” will inevitably be disrupted.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently rejected Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power's report that it would export nuclear power plants to the Czech Republic. In a reply to KHNP, the Department of Energy said, “A U.S. entity (including a corporation) must submit the report.” Since the company that transferred U.S. nuclear power technology to Korea in the past was Westinghouse, the decision is pointing out that the U.S. company should be the subject of the report instead of KHNP, a Korean company. U.S. federal regulations mandate reporting to the government when doing business abroad with export-controlled nuclear power technology.

This occurred because there was a dispute over whether the Korean nuclear power plant was independently developed or the result of relying on Westinghouse technology. Although KHNP received help from Westinghouse when it first built a nuclear power plant in the 1970s, it claims that the third-generation nuclear reactor, the Korean nuclear power plant (APR1400), was developed entirely with its technology. The APR1400 was exported to the United Arab Emirates, and exports to the Czech Republic and Turkey are being discussed. On the other hand, Westinghouse filed a lawsuit in a U.S. court claiming that South Korea's nuclear power plant borrowed its reactor design. The DOE's decision seems to be sided with Westinghouse.

If the conflict escalates, both countries will suffer. Currently, only Korea, Russia, and China are the only countries with overseas nuclear power plant construction capabilities and actively exporting them. Westinghouse has original design technologies but has never built a nuclear power plant in recent years, thus lacking construction and operation capabilities. While countries around the world are rushing to build nuclear power plants to respond to climate change, if the conflict between Korea and the U.S. worsens, only Russia and China will gain from this development.

In the end, the only solution to this conflict is through economic diplomacy at the highest level of both countries, and this is why President Yoon Suk Yeol has to put an agenda for nuclear power plant cooperation along with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on the table of the Korea-U.S. summit to be held in Washington, D.C. at the end of this month. This summit should not only remove the biggest obstacle to nuclear exports, which are just beginning to uptrend but also find a solution to take bilateral cooperation to the next level as those becoming good partners for nuclear collaboration without damaging national interests.