S. Korea, Saudi Arabia discuss ways to step up nuclear energy cooperation

Seoul South Korea and Saudi Arabia have discussed ways to step up cooperation in the atomic energy sector as Seoul seeks to tender a bid for the kingdom's nuclear power project, South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Tuesday.

South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Paik Un-gyu started on Monday a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih for nuclear cooperation talks, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Un-gyu also met with senior economic officials to boost South Korean firms participating in Saudi Arabia's projects to build public transportation, railways and new cities, his office said.

The visit is aimed at promoting Korean nuclear program as the kingdom plans to build its first nuclear reactors as part of a new energy roadmap. The lucrative deal is a second chance for South Korea to tap into the Middle East market following a $20 billion contract with the United Arab Emirates in 2009.

Saudi Arabia is expected to shortlist two to three preferred bidders by April and plans to select the winner by the end of this year, according to local reports.

The two countries have signed cooperation agreements in the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as Riyadh seeks to reduce its reliance on oil and develop alternative energy sector.

In 2015, South Korea and Saudi Arabia inked a memorandum of understanding to jointly promote the System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) in the global market. Two-way trade volume reached $21.3 billion in 2016 with South Korea exporting $5.6 billion worth of cars, electronic goods, steel and textiles to Saudi Arabia and importing $15.7 billion worth of crude oil and petrochemical products.

Source: International Islamic News Agency