Korea-U.S. Stuck Over Nuclear Reprocessing

      December 08, 2011 12:14

      Korean and U.S. officials have apparently been unable to reach an agreement on key issues in a fourth round of talks to revise the bilateral nuclear energy pact.

      Park Ro-byug, the Korean envoy for the talks, and Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, discussed whether South Korea should be allowed to reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel rods.

      A diplomatic source in Seoul said, "The major obstacle in the negotiations is the suspicion that Korea is seeking to pursue its own nuclear program." The U.S. is apparently concerned because South Korea in 2000 attempted to enrich uranium using laser enrichment technology and may try to do that again.

      Seoul at the time claimed some scientists enriched uranium out of academic curiosity to separate a substance called gadolinium but the government had nothing to do with it. It added only 0.2 g of uranium was enriched, demonstrating that there were no ulterior motives behind the move.

      But the U.S. did not believe Seoul's claims. Some U.S. officials even proposed raising the issue at the UN Security Council.

      Seoul and Washington signed the pact in 1974 detailing the extent of nuclear technology Korea can use for civilian purposes. It allows the U.S. to provide nuclear power technology to Korea, while prohibiting Seoul from reprocessing or exporting spent nuclear fuel rods without Washington's approval.

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