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Seoul wins 40-billion-dollar UAE nuclear power deal

A consortium of South Korean firms - including Korea Electric Power Corp, Hyundai and Samsung - has won a deal worth 40 billion dollars to build nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates.

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AFP The United Arab Emirates has awarded a 20.4-billion-dollar contract to build four nuclear power plants to a South Korean-led consortium, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said Sunday.

The UAE "has determined that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) team is best equipped to fulfill the government's partnership requirements in this ambitious programme," ENEC chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak said in a statement.

The deal is expected to lead to additional contracts worth 20 billion dollars to operate and maintain the reactors over the next 60 years, South Korea's knowledge and economy ministry said in a statement in Seoul.

However, an Emirati official told AFP that "a contract covering the operation of the facilities has not yet been awarded."

ENEC communications director Padraic Riley told a news conference there could be more contracts in connection with the construction of further reactors, but did not say if there would be a contract for the operation of the first four.

"If, in the future, the UAE moves forward with (building) a fleet of nuclear reactors... there may be more contracts," he said.

ENEC CEO Mohamed al-Hammadi told the news conference his country "will definitely be building more than four (plants)."

ENEC, which was established last week by presidential decree and tasked with implementing the UAE's nuclear energy programme, said that the KEPCO-led consortium has been selected to "help operate" the power plants.

But it did not give further details, saying only that Sunday's deal covers "construction, commissioning and fuel loads" for the four 1,400 megawatt reactors, the first of which is to begin producing electricity in 2017.

The consortium tasked with building the plants comprises Korean firms KEPCO, Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries, along with US firm Westinghouse, Toshiba of Japan, and KEPCO subsidiaries, ENEC said.

It won the deal against competition from two rival bidding groups that included a consortium of French companies and another composed of the US firm General Electric and Japan's Hitachi.

In Paris, the French consortium said it took note of the decision and that it remained ready to cooperate with the UAE in future.

"The companies behind the French bid remained convinced of the quality of this offer and the advanced features of the EPR in terms of safety," said the firms, referring to its European Pressurised Reactor model.

France's top energy firms, EDF, GDF-Suez and Total along with engineering giants Areva, Vinci and Alstom had come together to present the bid for the 20.4 billion-dollar contract.

Hammadi said meanwhile that more than 2,000 workers would be employed at the plants and that a "minimum of 60 percent" of the workforce would eventually be made up of UAE citizens. But he did not say who would run the plants in the interim.

Thirty-nine Emiratis are currently on scholarships to universities in France, the United States and Britain in studies related to work at nuclear power plants, Hammadi told the news conference.

Hee Yong Lee, who will lead KEPCO's project in the UAE, said his country had much to offer regarding training for nuclear power plant employees.

"Korea has developed a very systematic training system, from the high school level to the university and vocational training. So we will share all the systems and contents" with the UAE, Lee said.

The four light water nuclear reactors should all be operational by 2020, and will boost the UAE's goal of meeting 23 to 25 percent of its power demand with nuclear energy, Hammadi said.

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