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(LEAD) S. Korean consortium wins bid to build reactor in Jordan

All Headlines 13:36 December 04, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments from para 6)
By Lee Joon-seung

SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean consortium has won an open bid to build Jordan's first atomic research reactor, potentially helping Korean firms make inroads into the market in the future, government officials said Friday.

Seoul's science ministry said the state-run Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. have been chosen as the priority negotiating partners by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

The deal, reached in Amman and estimated to be worth around 200 billion won (US$173 million), calls for the 5 megawatt reactor to be built at the Jordan University for Sciences and Technology by 2014.

Construction of related facilities like a radioactive isotope laboratory is expected to take place after the JAEC and the South Korean consortium work out the financial and technical aspects. A formal deal is planned for March 2010.

KAERI and Daewoo sidestepped rival bids from Argentina, China and Russia.

"This could make South Korea one of three countries in the world to export research reactors along with Argentina and Russia," Education and Science Minister Ahn Byong-man told reporters.

He said the decision by Amman to pick South Korean companies is testament to South Korea's extensive experience, high safety standards and technological prowess in the atomic energy sector.

"Seoul expects the Jordanian deal could help promote similar arrangements in the future," the policymaker said.

A research reactor is used to conduct various scientific and engineering studies, and is also designed for isotope production for medical and industrial purposes. It can be used to train expert personnel.

Because the technology used to make the research reactor is indigenous, there is no need to get prior approval from a foreign country as long as South Korea and Jordan adhere to international established nuclear guidelines on safety and non-proliferation.

The ministry, meanwhile, said the deal marks the first time South Korea has won the right to sell a locally made nuclear reactor abroad, after entering the experimental reactor field in 1959 with the purchase of the TRIGA Mark-II from the United States.

Other officials in the ministry said the agreement with Jordan could help South Korea win possible commercial reactor deals in the country that may reach four reactors. Large commercial reactors with an output of 1,000MW could cost up to US$2.5 billion.

South Korea has been operating the 30 megawatt High-flux Advanced Neutron Application Reactor (HANARO) 30MW since 1995 and has been eying export markets in the past few years. It also operates 20 commercial reactors.

They said that by securing the Jordanian contract, South Korea will be in a good position to engage in future research reactor bids.

South Korea is interested in building research reactors for countries like Saudi Arabia, Thailand, South Africa and Kazakhstan.

There are an estimated 240 operational research reactors in the world. Some 40 countries are expected to require 50 new units in the next 15 years.


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