It is the first time that a Korean consortium has won a contract to build nuclear power facilities in a foreign country. Korea thus has become the world's sixth exporter of nuclear power facilities after the United States, France, Canada, Russia and Japan, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.
"It is the first time that Korea's competitiveness in nuclear power has been recognized by the world. The winning of the contract will remarkably upgrade the nation's global standing as a nuclear powerhouse," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the Korean consortium, which includes the Korea Electric Power Corp., Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung C&T Corp.
and Doosan Heavy Industries, won the order to build four 1.4 million-kilowatt nuclear power reactors in the UAE.
According to the government estimate, the contract will create direct exports of $20 billion, which is equivalent to shipment of 1 million units of Hyundai NF Sonata sedans.
The value of operations of four nuclear reactors and maintenance for the next 60 years will be tantamount to export worth $20 billion for Korea, government officials said. The UAE project will create 110,000 jobs, they said.
To win the massive project, the Korean consortium competed for more than six months with two other bidders a consortium of General Electric-Hitachi and a French consortium including Areva, the ministry said.
The ministry attributed Korea's victory to the local nuclear power industry's higher rate of operation, price competitiveness and short construction time.
According to the government, Korean nuclear power plants' capacity factor, or actual hours operated divided by one year of hours, was 93.3 percent as of the end of 2008, 14 percentage points higher than the world's average of 79.4 percent.
A Korean nuclear power plant APR1400's overnight capital cost is $2,300 per kilowatt, which is about 20 percent lower than nuclear power plants in other nations, according to the World Nuclear Association 2008 quoted by the ministry.
It took 52 months to complete the Korean standard nuclear power plant OPR1000, while the United States needed 57 months to build AP1000, and France, 60 months to build CPR1000, according to government data.
President Lee Myung-bak's aggressive diplomacy was also attributed to the success of Korea's nuclear power plant export, the ministry said.
Since Korea's first nuclear power reactor Gori No. 1 started operation in 1972, the nation has increased the number of nuclear power reactors to the current 20. Power generation by the 20 reactors accounts for 36 percent of Korea's total electricity supply, according to the government.
There are four reactors in Gori, four in Wolseong, six in Yeonggwang and six in Uljin. An additional eight are under construction - four in Goritwo and two each in Uljin and Wolseong. Korean nuclear power plants have not undergone any major accident during the past 30 years, officials said.