South Korea’s State Owned Nuclear Developer in Talks for UK’s Nuclear Energy Plants

Kepco - UK Nuclear Plants

South Korea’s state-owned nuclear developer has engaged in talks with the UK government regarding the potential construction of a multibillion-pound power plant in Wales.

Kepco, South Korea’s largest utility provider, has initiated preliminary discussions with Westminster officials regarding the development of the Wylfa Newydd site on Anglesey (Ynys Môn), as reported by the Financial Times.

Energy Minister Andrew Bowie is slated to meet with representatives from Kepco this week to address the matter within the context of the annual UK civil energy dialogue talks between the UK and South Korea.

The government aims to revive the project as part of its strategy to generate 24 gigawatts of energy from nuclear sources by 2050, a substantial increase from the current 6GW.

Kepco – UK Nuclear Plants

Initially, there were hopes for Japanese developer Hitachi to construct two reactors on the site. However, Hitachi withdrew from the project in early 2019 due to escalating costs, casting uncertainty over the site’s future.

In March of this year, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the UK government had reached a £160 million agreement with Hitachi to acquire Wylfa and the Oldbury plant site in Gloucestershire, with the intention of attracting new investors.

An industry source indicated to the FT, “Kepco is certainly interested in the project and the company is in talks with the UK government about it.” Discussions, according to a UK official briefed on the matter, are in the early stages.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero stated, “Wylfa has excellent potential, and we welcome the interest of all parties who are looking to invest in UK nuclear projects.”

Kepco’s CEO and chair, Kim Dong-cheol, visited the Wylfa site last November as part of a South Korean delegation examining UK nuclear opportunities.

Kepco – UK Nuclear Plants

Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Môn, noted that the delegation regarded Wylfa as a superior nuclear site due to its grid connection and ample cooling water availability.

Kepco previously signed a memorandum of understanding with global engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald last year to explore UK nuclear opportunities and provide support with licensing and site development.

An alternative proposal for the Wylfa site involves hosting a series of new small modular reactors (SMRs), designed for cost-effectiveness and expedited construction, although the technology remains unproven.

The decision on the technology provider and the type of technology to be utilized at Wylfa will be determined by Great British Nuclear, which was established to facilitate the development of new power stations, including a fleet of SMRs.

Despite the UK’s nuclear aspirations, only one plant is currently under construction – Hinkley Point C in Somerset. Its counterpart, Sizewell C in Suffolk, received a nuclear site license just last week.

Jessica Smith
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