The South Korean authorities announced their intention to develop a nuclear submarine project. According to Defense News, ships of this class are planned to be used as a counterweight to North Korean submarines with ballistic missiles. Currently, South Korean experts are studying foreign projects that could be taken as a basis for their own submarine.
Currently, the armed forces of the South Korean Navy are 16 diesel-electric submarines: seven types of “Son Won” and nine types of “Chang Pogo.” All of them are built on the German projects Type 214 and Type 209, developed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft and modified by Korean companies Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries. The Korean fleet does not have nuclear ships.
Compared with diesel-electric submarines, nuclear submarines can stay much longer in the underwater position, which positively affects the stealth of displacement. In addition, nuclear submarines have an almost unlimited power reserve.
The South Korean military is considering the possibility of developing an atomic submarine with a displacement of about five thousand tons. As one of the projects that can be taken as a basis, the Koreans are studying the French project for nuclear multi-purpose submarines of the Barracuda type. The displacement of these ships is 5,3 thousand tons.
One of the advantages of the Barracuda type submarines in front of other nuclear ships is the use of low-enriched uranium. Currently, South Korea and the United States have an agreement to control the export of nuclear technology, prohibiting, in particular, Seoul, the creation and use of reactors that require more than 20 percent enrichment for uranium.
The contract with the US was slightly adjusted in 2015. The renewed agreement allows Seoul to export nuclear reactors. At the same time, South Korea is prohibited from enriching uranium, reprocessing spent nuclear fuel for military purposes.
It should be noted that South Korea has already tried to develop its own nuclear submarine. This project was secretly launched in early 2003. In 2004, information about the development program, which received the designation “362 initiative” (“initiative 362”), leaked to the press. Soon the project was interested in the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it was closed.