Korean construction firms received a boost when the Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) announced that construction of new nuclear power plants would recommence after a five-year break.

Five construction companies, including SK and LG, are preparing to participate in local nuclear power plant construction starting with the first two Shin Kori plants, slated for bidding in January next year, industry sources said Wednesday.

Three further projects costing in excess of 1 trillion won (US$772 million) are scheduled to be ordered by KEPCO next year. KEPCO is slated to place on order for Shin Kori Nos.1 and 2 nuclear power plants costing around 4.9 trillion won (US$3.79 billion); Shin Wolsung Nos.1 and 2 are to be put up for public notice in June, costing 4.7 trillion won; and Shin Kori Nos. 3 and 4 with public notice in December and a total cost of 5.8 trillion won (US$4.48 billion).

Competition for the construction contracts is likely to be intense. Of the five competing construction firms, SK and LG have already secured Korea Electric Power Industry Code (KEPIC) certificates along with technical training for their specialists, entitling them to participate in the nuclear power plant construction. Samwhan Enterprise, too, secured KEPIC certification in February and will provide training to 40 of its specialists. Hyundai Industrial Development and Sambu Construction are trying to acquire KEPIC certificates and give necessary training to their professionals.

These construction firms have been sounding each other out over the possibility of forming a consortium if they cannot go it alone.

South Korea has 14 operating nuclear power stations and plans to double this number by 2015. Nuclear production accounts for over 40 per cent of the county’s electricity.