It was clear from the outset that when it came to choosing a developer for its first nuclear power plant, Abu Dhabi would base its decision on more than just commercial and technical considerations. The project is the country’s first foray into the world of nuclear power and there is a lot riding on whether it succeeds or fails.
The international community has commended Abu Dhabi on its handling of the scheme so far, with some saying it has set a gold standard for emerging economies seeking to develop a civilian nuclear power capacity.
The size and cost of the project, as well as its political sensitivity, makes it a potent strategic tool for Abu Dhabi. When it makes an award, it will in effect be cementing its political relationship with the US, France or South Korea – the three countries the bidders are from.
The South Koreans may have offered the lowest price, but Seoul does not wield the same influence as Paris or Washington either politically or as a trading partner. It is no wonder then that the UAE has asked the US and French-led bidding groups to lower their prices and bring them closer to the South Korean bid.
There is no doubt that the Korean team is perfectly qualified to develop the nuclear plant, but for political reasons it may not get the chance to do so. Still, it has played a crucial role in the bidding process, providing Abu Dhabi with a benchmark price with which to exert pressure on the other groups in the race. Abu Dhabi should give the South Koreans their chance.