South Korea makes big overseas nuclear energy push

1. Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) said it will begin talks next year with the United Arab Emirates on a new deal for four more nuclear power plants, and plans to spend 800 billion won ($706.06 million) this year on overseas resources development including acquisitions.

The state-run utility would start construction on four nuclear power plants in the UAE on July 1, advancing the start date by four months, pending regulatory approval by June 30, with completion scheduled for 2017-2020.

KEPCO would also begin exclusive talks with the UAE next year on a deal to build four additional nuclear plants to be completed by 2021, he said, aiming to conclude negotiations by the end of next year.

“As far as I know, the UAE has not held talks with other countries,” Kim said, referring to the potential deal for four additional reactors. “Our efficiency will increase as we build the first four. We will achieve cost competitiveness if the same type of reactor is chosen … we can shorten construction time, meaning earlier returns on investment.”

“KEPCO has also been in talks with India, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam over possible reactor exports, although any deals are unlikely to be signed this year,” he said.

The KEPCO team would design, build and help operate four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power units, and put the value of the contract for construction, commissioning and fuel loads at about $20 billion.

2. Business Week – Korea Electric Power Corp , the nation’s monopoly distributor, plans to boost spending on overseas plants and mine purchases 10-fold to 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) as its nuclear projects face protests at home.

The utility known as Kepco allocated 1.2 trillion won for overseas capital expenditure this year, compared with 200 billion won last year.

Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster in neighboring Japan, South Korea had aimed to secure $400 billion of nuclear power contracts by 2030 and control 20 percent of global market share, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in January 2010.

Kepco broke ground for the U.A.E. project in March last year and is four months ahead of plan, Kim said. Construction of the first reactor should start in the third quarter after approval from the U.A.E. by June, Kim said.

The utility is competing for more orders from countries including Vietnam, India and Kazakhstan, and is in talks with Turkey to build two nuclear reactors near the Black Sea.

Kim plans to meet nuclear policy makers in Istanbul on April 17 and 18 to discuss its bid, he said.

The utility wants to get 50 percent of sales from abroad by 2025, compared with 3.9 percent in 2011.

3. Despite difficult times, the global long-term prospects for nuclear plant construction remain strong.

Construction permits are pending for more than 25 nuclear power plants (mostly to generate more power from existing nuclear units but for new builds as well), with regulatory approval expected shortly for several of them.

This could push Shaw’s backlog substantially higher in the year’s second half and give the stock a healthy boost. For now, however, management projects a $22 billion backlog at yearend.

Shaw is also strongly positioned to capitalize on growth in conventional power generation. EPA regulations will require around one-third of U.S. coal-fired power plants to upgrade in the next several years to reduce their emission of pollutants.

The market for flue gas desulfurization units, (scrubbers) represents $35 billion in spending in the next five years, and Shaw stands to capture as much as 20% of that business.

Meanwhile, record production and the dramatic drop in natural gas prices resulting from drilling in unconventional shale formations have prompted more utilities to scrap coal plants in favor of gas-fired plants.

Here, too, Shaw should find lots of work in the estimated $20 billion spending spree in the next few years.

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