The White House point man for arms control on Monday expressed confidence that Korea and the U.S. will find a solution in talks to allow Korea to reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel rods.
Gary Samore made the remarks at a seminar hosted by the Korean Embassy in Washington. Korea has been urging the U.S. to revise a 1974 agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy that prohibits Seoul from reprocessing.
But Samore set his face against allowing Korea to enrich uranium as well, saying enriched uranium can be bought from other countries like the U.S. or France.
The U.S. has signed bilateral nuclear agreements with a number of countries including Korea, usually preventing them from running their own uranium enrichment program.
But Japan signed an agreement with the U.S. in 1955 allowing supply of nuclear reactors and enriched uranium for research purposes. It started reprocessing as far back as 1977, although it still needed consent from the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. When the agreement was amended in 1988, Japan became the only country without nuclear arms to have nearly full permission to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel.
India also won the right to reprocessing in its 2007 agreement with the U.S. India developed nuclear weapons without joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It carried out nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998 but was exempt from stringent controls for strategic reasons, chiefly because the U.S. wanted to keep China in check and embrace a huge emerging market.
The Korean nuclear power industry is critical of what it says are the double standards employed by the U.S., which prevent one of its closest allies from uranium enrichment and reprocessing while Japan and India enjoy such exceptional rights.