South Korea to Build the First NuScale SMR

After decades of discussion and planning, a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) is now being built in South Korea. Such reactors, in the range of 50 to 300 megawatts, could be built with components mass produced in factories at far lower costs than the 1,000 megawatt and larger nuclear power plants (NPP). They would also be ideal for the establishment of independent grid networks in Africa, and other remote areas lacking infrastructure, and they could power the desalination plants in South-West Asia, that are an essential element of the Schiller Institute’s “Oasis plan” for the region, just to give two examples.

The only SMR that has actually been officially certified for construction is that of the U.S. based company NuScale Power, which suffered a setback earlier this year when its proposed project to build its first reactor was canceled by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. But now, South Korean companies plan to build an operational NuScale SMR in Uljin County as part of the country’s bid to become the world’s foremost constructor of such reactors.

South Korea is no newcomer to nuclear power and builds its own reactors of the APR1400 model, which forms the backbone of its fleet of 26 reactors, soon to increase to 30. It is in the process of fully completing a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates comprising 4 APR1400 reactors, three of which are already commercially operating, with the last to go online by the end of this year.

The Korean government has significantly increased the budget for SMRs, and has designated the port city of Changwon, a center of heavy industry, as the hub for manufacturing them. The three major South Korean companies that will be building the new modular reactor have become the second largest investors in NuScale, holding 15% of the shares. Doosan Enerbility, a major power plant builder, has invested $140 million, while Samsung C&T, the engineering branch of Samsung, and GS Energy, the largest electricity producer, respectively invested $70 million and $40 million. Doosan has been collaborating with NuScale since 2019 and in 2023 began the forgings for the reactor’s pressure vessels.

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