France seeks fresh nuclear energy contracts in the UAE after losing a bid led by Korea Electric Power Corporation, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
"If they have other plans we will obviously bid," The National quoted Pierre Lellouche, the French foreign trade minister saying. "There's plenty of room, it seems, for dozens of French firms."
In 2009, a French consortium led by Areva lost a bid to build UAE's first nuclear reactors. Instead the South Korean consortium was awarded a contract worth some $20 billion to build the four nuclear power plants in the Gulf country.
But the Korean consortium is set to supply only the first three batches of the uranium that will fuel the four reactors in Abu Dhabi's Western Region, said Hamad al-Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
France, the UK, U.S. and South Korea have signed nuclear co-operation agreements with the UAE. Those agreements form the foundation for technology and knowledge transfer in addition to opening supply routes for nuclear fuel, al-Kaabi added.
Lellouche cited France's legacy of nuclear power generation. "We are at the top of the league in this industry, particularly in terms of safety," he said.
France has also sought to secure nuclear contracts in Jordan and Kuwait, which began laying the foundations for nuclear energy at the same time as the UAE.
Lellouche also met with Dr. Sultan al-Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar, Abu Dhabi's clean-energy company, along with representatives from the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry before a planned visit to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is evaluating the merits of adding nuclear power to a mostly fossil fuels energy mix to alleviate its chronic electricity shortages.
UAE is the world’s third largest oil exporter, but the country says that only nuclear power can meet its energy demands.
UAE's nuclear reactors should all be in operation by 2020 by which the demand for electricity in the UAE is expected to have more than doubled.
The first is schedule to begin supplying power in 2017.
South Korea first introduced atomic power in 1978 and now has 20 nuclear reactors in operation