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SEOUL, April 3 (Reuters) - Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) said it will begin talks next year with the United Arab Emirates on a new deal for four nuclear power plants, and plans to spend 800 billion won ($706.06 million) this year on overseas resources development including acquisitions.
President and Chief Executive Kim Joong-kyum told reporters late on Monday that the state-run utility would start construction on four nuclear power plants in the UAE on July 1, advancing the start date by four months, pending regulatory approval by June 30, with completion scheduled for 2017-2020.
KEPCO would also begin exclusive talks with the UAE next year on a deal to build four additional nuclear plants to be completed by 2021, he said, aiming to conclude negotiations by the end of next year.
"As far as I know, the UAE has not held talks with other countries," Kim said, referring to the potential deal for four additional reactors. "Our efficiency will increase as we build the first four. We will achieve cost competitiveness if the same type of reactor is chosen ... we can shorten construction time, meaning earlier returns on investment."
"KEPCO has also been in talks with India, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam over possible reactor exports, although any deals are unlikely to be signed this year," he said.
Oil-exporting UAE awarded the contract for the first four to a consortium of Korean companies led by KEPCO in December 2009. At that time, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) said the KEPCO team would design, build and help operate four 1,400-megawatt nuclear power units, and put the value of the contract for construction, commissioning and fuel loads at about $20 billion.
ENEC said last month that it hoped to start construction on the first plant in the fourth quarter, if regulatory approval was received by the third quarter.
"We are looking into three to four deal candidates, including mines and companies," Kim said regarding the company's overseas investment plans this year, adding that KEPCO was eyeing steaming coal and uranium assets in the United States and South Africa to diversify procurement after almost zero investment last year.
To ensure stable coal and uranium procurement, he said KEPCO aimed to set up its first resources procurement and trading joint venture with Germany's RWE AG this year in either Singapore or South Korea, after selecting RWE as preferred bidder last December.
KEPCO fully owns five thermal coal power generating utilities in South Korea, the world's No.3 coal buyer - Korea East West Power Co, Korea Southern Power Co, Korea South-East Power Co Ltd, Korea Western Power Co Ltd and Korea Midland Power Co.
It also has stakes in Indonesian and Australian coal mines and companies, and uranium mines and companies in Canada, Niger and the United States, according to company data.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, is heavily dependent on energy imports. It has been seeking ways to increase stable commodities and energy procurement as global prices soar. It imports almost all feedstocks for power generation. ($1 = 1133.0500 Korean won) (Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Chris Lewis)