India and South Korea To Revitalize the 2011 Nuclear Power Generation Deal

December 3, 2014

On Dec. 1, India and South Korea held talks for the first time since 2011 to put in motion the civil nuclear deal they had signed in 2011. The deal was signed at the time to enable South Korea to enter India's nuclear power generation market with its advanced technologies. In principle, the agreement allowed South Korea to export its nuclear energy technology to India. The pact was designed to benefit both sides, as India needed to expand its nuclear energy market while Korea was seeking to export its technology. However, due to the lack of initiative on behalf of the previous Indian government under Manmohan Singh, the pact remained dormant.

The present Indian government under Narendra Modi is keen to expand its nuclear power generation capability and is seeking help from all those who are willing to assist him in succeeding in this venture. Like India, Korea has an ambitious nuclear power program, and it plans to raise the nuclear power generation by 59% by 2035. Following a temporary setback, the Korean nuclear industry has begun to revive, and the Korean government infused over $7 billion into the nuclear power sector earlier this year.

What might have additionally interested New Delhi to revive the deal, is South Korea's progress in the sodium-cooled fast reactor. The 150MW advanced sodium-cooled reactor, a Generation IV reactor, is being developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in collaboration with U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. KAERI is developing the reactor while Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) is designing the balance of plant. The reactor builds on two closely related technologies — the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor and the Integral Fast Reactor (originally advanced Liquid Metal Reactor).

Since India's 500MW fast neutron reactor is sodium-cooled and scheduled to go into commercial operation next year, the interaction is expected not only to help both sides, but India will be able to secure the Argonne Lab's technological input by reviving this deal.