South Korea's new energy minister says to support nuclear reactor exports

SEJONG (Reuters) - South Korea’s new energy minister on Monday said he plans to support the country’s push to sell nuclear reactors overseas, even as the nation curbs nuclear power at home.

State-run Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) is building the first of four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates in an $18.6 billion deal, and is scouting for more business in Britain and other countries.

But that comes as South Korea, Asia’ fourth-largest economy, has been looking to steer its domestic energy policy away from its current heavy dependence on coal and nuclear, with large chunks of the public skeptical about the safety of atomic power.

“The problem we’re facing is having multiple units in a small country, and if other countries do not have such problems, I have no intention to stop exports at all and am planning to support such moves,” Paik Un-gyu, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, told reporters.

He added that South Korea would gradually phase out its use of nuclear power over the coming decades.

“We have a long-term roadmap for the next 60 years and our policy is phasing out nuclear power gradually, rather than shutting down radically,” he said.

South Korea is currently running a total of 24 nuclear power plants, generating about a third of the nation’s total electricity.

Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Joseph Radford