The UK’s government has signed a statement of cooperation with South Korea for the development of nuclear energy.

UK energy security minister Grant Shapps agreed on the joint statement of cooperation with South Korea’s minister of trade, industry and energy Dr Lee Chang-Yang. The two governments agreed on the development of nuclear as a “secure, clean and affordable” energy source.

Shapps said of the agreement: “I want the Republic of Korea to work ever closer with us in the UK, making the most of world-leading British expertise to move further and faster towards greater use of renewables, of opportunities in the UK to invest, and to redouble our efforts against Putin’s weaponising of our global energy sources”.

The move comes as the UK promotes nuclear development including the construction of small modular reactors. The UK government aims to generate 25% of the country’s energy from nuclear sources by 2050.

China has had extensive involvement in the UK’s nuclear industry, but the UK government is seeking to reduce its role. In November 2022 China General Nuclear was removed from the Sizewell C nuclear development, and the UK government will now finance the $843m share, which will be matched by France’s EDF. China still holds stakes in EDF’s Hinkley Point C project in the south of the UK.

China has the third-highest installed nuclear capacity in the world and since 2017, 87% of nuclear power plants to have broken ground have been Russian or Chinese.

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Expanding renewable energy capacity

The UK and South Korea also agreed to collaborate on the expansion of renewable energy capacity, including offshore wind.

Shapps said: “As we edge closer towards the tipping point when holding onto coal and gas power no longer makes economic sense, let alone environmental sense, there is ever-greater opportunity for British and Korean companies to work together, for the benefit of both countries and our communities”.

The UK government claims that developments in both nuclear and renewable energy will reduce Russian influence by encouraging energy security.

Korea has a target to produce 12GW from offshore wind by 2030. UK companies represent 60% of offshore wind engineering projects in the country. The UK has an offshore wind capacity of 14GW o and aims to produce 50GW by 2030.