SK Group [034730:KS], South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate, formed a partnership with Bill Gates-backed nuclear power venture TerraPower to develop a small modular reactor (SMR) business, as reported by Korea Economic Daily on May 17. SK Group stated that it hopes to explore business opportunities brought by TerraPower’s next-generation SMR technologies. Compared to conventional nuclear power plants, SMRs require less construction cost and building area, making them easier to be transported and installed. They are also safer than larger nuclear plants as they can be cooled without complicated safety devices.
SK branched out into SMR technologies as South Korea’s newly elected president Yoon Suk-Yeol intends to restore investment in the nuclear sector, overturning former president Moon Jae-in’s policy to exit nuclear energy. At present, nuclear energy contributes around 27% of South Korea’s electricity output, acting as its third-largest power source after liquefied natural gas (LNG) at 29% and coal at 35%. President Yoon Suk-Yeol pledged to raise nuclear power’s share to 30% by restarting construction and extending reactors’ lives, with a plan to export ten nuclear plants by 2030. SK Group projects that development of next-generation SMRs could help the country obtain affordable low-carbon electricity and secure transitional power before it turns to renewable energies. The move also accords with SK Group’s commitment made last year to reducing 200m tons of carbon emissions in 2030, equivalent to around 1% of the global carbon elimination goal of 21bn tons by 2030.