A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on comprehensive cooperation in nuclear research and development was signed on 17 September by Mun Miock, first vice minister of South Korea's Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), and Khalid bin Saleh Al-Sultan, president of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE). The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna.
Under the MoU, Korea and Saudi Arabia will work together to refine the design of the SMART reactor. Korea will also assist in gaining Saudi design approval of the reactor, as well as cooperating in the construction and operation of a SMART reactor in Saudi Arabia. The partners will also promote the SMART design to other Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries considering the use of small reactors.
A separate agreement was also signed between MSIT and KA-CARE to establish a joint nuclear energy research centre in Saudi Arabia by the end of this year.
"The MoU and the research centre agreement strengthen the partnership between South Korea and Saudi Arabia as we move to enter the global market for medium-small nuclear reactors," Mun was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.
SMART is a 330 MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. The unit is designed for electricity generation (up to 100 MWe) as well as thermal applications, such as seawater desalination, with a 60-year design life and three-year refuelling cycle. While the basic design is complete, development had been stalled by the absence of any orders for an initial reference unit. Developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), SMART received standard design approval from the Korean regulator in mid-2012. KAERI had planned to build a demonstration plant to operate from 2017.
In March 2015, South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed an MoU to jointly promote the SMART reactor in the global market. This followed an inter-governmental agreement the two countries signed in 2011 on the development and implementation of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In September 2015, contracts were signed between KA-CARE and KAERI to support their cooperation in developing SMART.
Between late-2015 and November 2018, Korea and Saudi Arabia invested USD130 million to complete their pre-construction design project for the reactor.
South Korean companies Kepco Engineering & Construction and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in December 2018 signed an MoU to jointly develop a project to construct a plant based on SMART in Saudi Arabia.