The UK will work with South Korea to build nuclear supply chains and share information on developing technologies such as small modular reactors, as it looks to limit China’s role in ramping up nuclear power generation.
Energy security and net zero secretary Grant Shapps has travelled to capital Seoul to meet Dr Lee Chang-Yang – Minister of Trade Industry and Energy for South Korea, and signed a joint statement of co-operation on the energy transition.
Details of what aspects of the supply chain and which information they will share remain sparse, but both countries agree that nuclear energy has an essential role to play in creating secure and affordable energy.
Their plans includes developing ‘robust and resilient’ nuclear supply chains and sharing developments in advanced civil nuclear technologies.
As it stands, China are world leaders in nuclear expertise, with expansive global supply chains and stakes in Western projects including EDF’s Hinkley Point C – the latest upcoming nuclear plant in the UK set for completion this decade.
The government has looked to boost domestic investment in power plants through the Nuclear Financing Bill – which enables taxpayer funds to be used for initial stages of construction before pension groups and investment firms join projects.
Meanwhile, the government has bought China General Nuclear Power Group’s (CGN) holding in Sizewell C – which awaits a final investment decision.
Since 2017, 87 per cent of nuclear power plants to have broken ground have been Russian or Chinese, with China ranking third in the world in terms of capacity installed – according to the International Energy Agency.
As of last September, China operates a total of 53 nuclear reactors, with a total capacity of 55.6GW – supported by state-backed vehicles CGN alongside the China General Nuclear Power group.
Shapps’ announcement follows the government’s ‘Powering Up Britain’ plan – its latest proposals to reach net zero and boost domestic energy generation.
The plan faced an underwhelming reaction in the energy sector but did include the creation of Great British Nuclear.
The industry vehicle will aim to expand the UK’s nuclear power industry with the aim of ramping up a quarter of the country’s power through nuclear.
The government is targeting a ramp up in nuclear generation from 7GW to 24GW over the next three decades – as it looks to replace its ageing fleet of reactors.
They also reaffirmed a shared commitment to work on expanding renewable energy technologies.
South Korea has a target for 12 GW of offshore wind by 2030 – with over 25 projects in development and UK companies representing 60 per cent of Korean offshore wind engineering projects.
The UK is also backing offshore wind generation to meet its supply security needs – targeting 50GW by the end of the decade.
Shapps said: “I want the Republic of Korea [South Korea] to work ever closer with us in the UK, making the most of world-leading British expertise to move further and faster towards greater use of renewables, of opportunities in the UK to invest, and to redouble our efforts against Putin’s weaponizing of our global energy sources.”
The energy security secretary has travelled to South Korea and Japan in the run-up to the G7 at Sapporo, Japan.
He is also the first cabinet minister to visit Korea since the UK’s announced it has joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – of which Japan is a member.