South Korea, US reach deal to revise civil nuclear pact

South Korea, US reach deal to revise civil nuclear pact

SEOUL - Reuters
South Korea, US reach deal to revise civil nuclear pact

AFP Photo

South Korea and the United States reached a deal on April 22 to revise a 40-year-old civil nuclear pact that gives the Asian country limited freedom to produce fuel for power generation but continues to curb its ability to reprocess spent fuel. 

The deal paves the way for South Korea to enrich uranium to produce non-weapons grade nuclear fuel under guidelines to be drawn up by the two countries and also requires the United States to ensure it a stable supply of fuel for nuclear reactors, according to the South Korean foreign ministry. 

The agreement, which still needs approvals in both countries, contains no provision to allow South Korea to independently manage spent nuclear fuel through reprocessing, although it opened the way for easier movement of spent fuel to a third country for disposal. 

South Korea, which runs 23 atomic plants that provide a third of its power, has pushed for greater leeway to manage its nuclear fuel and had sought to revise the original pact with Washington to let it reprocess spent fuel. 

But reprocessing of spent fuel is a thorny diplomatic issue because of proliferation concerns, especially on the Korean peninsula where North Korea has defied efforts by the international community and pushed to develop nuclear weapons. 

South Korea’s nuclear reactors add a total of 750 tons of spent fuel every year to the 13,300 tons that filled 71 percent of its storage capacity as of 2013, according to operator Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd.