By Kim Tae-gyu
Korea settled for a top 16 spot in the South Africa World Cup, the first such feat on foreign soil, but in terms of nuclear deals, Korea appears to be breezing past top dogs such as France.
After winning a mega deal in the Middle East last year, Korea is now in talks with the Turkish government to build a pair of nuclear power reactors with the aim of gaining substantial results this year.
The latest blip on Korea's atomic energy export radar is Mexico, where a senior bureaucrat asked for assistance in nurturing specialists in nuclear power plants.
Mexico's Energy Minister Girogina Kessel Martinez made the request at a recent meeting with his counterpart Choi Kyung-hwan, minister of knowledge economy.
``Originally, it was not on the official agenda. But Mexican officials made the request all of a sudden. Martinez plans to visit Korea for more detailed discussions,'' a ministry official said.
``The chances are that the two countries will come up with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on atomic power generation research and technology. This will help us in the race to win Mexican plants.''
Mexico currently operates two nuclear reactors and is poised to add two more to reduce its overdependence on oil. The state is looks to finalize this plan by 2012.
``Should we be able to cooperate with Mexico by inking the MOU, we will be in a good position to win the atomic energy contracts,'' the official said.
Korea gained the global spotlight late last year when the country defeated global behemoths Areva and General Electric to win a nuclear power plant contract worth $20 billion.
When considering operating fees, the biggest energy deal in the Gulf could rise to as much as $40 billion. A consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) clinched the deal to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates by 2020.
The contract made Korea the sixth exporter of such plants following the United States, France, Canada, Russia and Japan.
In the wake of the milestone, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy signed an MOU with Turkey's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources midway through last month on the construction of two nuclear reactors in Sinop on the Black Sea.
There is still long way to go to seal the contract, whose value is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $10 billion, but Korea is likely to win because there is no other rival.
The export of nuclear power plants could become the goose that lays the golden egg for Korea since more than 500 such facilities are likely to be built over the next 20 years amid global efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Korea, which generates about 40 percent of its power requirements from nuclear plants, aims to carve out a fifth of the market by 2030, according to Minister Choi.
``We are looking to seize approximately 20 percent of the market over the long haul. Toward that end, we are nurturing specialists and helping local companies maximize their capacity,'' Choi said.