South Korea has come up as the latest country to announce its plans to construct floating nuclear power plants, following other leading nuclear power countries such as Russia and China. Kepco Engineering and Construction, a subsidiary of state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation, recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering that sets out plans to develop ships fitted with small modular reactors. Kepco is planning to use the power barges to supply electricity to islands where power grids are hard to install, or areas whose power demand is surging dramatically.
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The move by South Korea to construct a floating nuclear plants follows Russia’s successful construction of the Akademic Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, which began supplying heat to the Russian port of Pevek on the East Siberian Sea in July of 2020. China also first announced in 2016 that they would build a fleet of floating reactors to supply power to islands in the South China Sea. However, the Korean project has the additional aim of promptly establishing power infrastructure in North Korea in the case of unification and avoiding the political conflict that has been associated with the development of onshore nuclear power stations.
The project will combine Kepco’s “world-class nuclear power plant design and construction technology” and Daewoo’s diverse experience and shipbuilding know-how. Kepco added the agreement was expected to lead to the development of floating offshore nuclear power plants equipped with BANDI-60 reactors, a small modular reactor design it has been developing since 2016. The Daewoo agreement is not the first that Kepco has signed in pursuit of floating nuclear plants. In June 2014, it signed a memorandum with the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM). According to that deal, Kepco would be in charge of system engineering for generating units and inland connection and KIMM was responsible for designing floating structure and main power generation facilities.