Britain looks to South Korea to boost nuclear power


South Korea is in talks to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK as ministers scramble to boost the country’s energy supply.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, met with state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation to discuss investment in Britain’s nuclear industry and it is understood talks with officials are ongoing.

It comes after Russia’s war on Ukraine forced an urgent energy security overhaul, with Moscow last week shutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria and an EU embargo on gas. Russian oil approaching.

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, wants up to eight new nuclear reactors to be built in the UK by 2050 to supply up to a quarter of forecast electricity demand as part of a race to increase electricity UK energy independence.

French state-owned EDF is currently the only developer planning new nuclear projects in the UK, apart from its minority Chinese state partner whose involvement in sector ministers is reportedly seeking to block.

A Whitehall source said ministers wanted to work with “like-minded democratic allies” to develop new projects. Talks are thought to be in their infancy, with no particular factory deal yet on the table.

The UK is keen to strengthen trade relations with South Korea, with Mr Johnson and South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol pledging to “deepen digital, industrial and military cooperation” during a phone call in March.

South Korea’s interest in the UK would mark a comeback in the industry after its bailout plans for a struggling nuclear power plant project in Moorside, Cumbria, failed in 2018 due to delays in the conclusion of the agreement.

The country is the fifth largest producer of nuclear energy in the world with 24 reactors providing electricity. This power has been credited with helping the growth of South Korea’s globally dominant microchip industry.

Its nuclear industry has suffered amid a government policy flip-flop, but the newly elected president has pledged to reverse his predecessor’s plans to phase out the technology in a bid to meet climate goals.

Nuclear power currently provides around 18% of the UK’s annual electricity, but this is set to drop unless new plants are built, with all but one of the country’s aging nuclear fleet due to close by 2028.

Hinkley Point C in Somerset is the only replacement plant currently under construction and is expected to be commissioned in mid-2026.

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