Friday, March 26, 2010

South Korea Seeks Right to Reprocess Nuclear Material

Friday, March 26, 2010

Arguing that it is running out of space to store spent nuclear fuel rods, South Korea has called for the right to reprocess used material in spite of U.S. concerns about the effect of such work on the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday (see GSN, March 12).

The matter of where to put fuel rods is coming to a head, with one South Korean nuclear power site saying it will run out of storage pace by 2016. The South is moving to rapidly expand its civilian nuclear industry and has signed agreements to build reactors for several nations (see GSN, Jan. 7).

South Korean officials and scientists have argued that their nation should have the right to reprocess used fuel rods. A 1974 atomic trade agreement with Washington prevents the South from carrying out such operations, which could be employed to produce weapon-grade nuclear material.

"We will continue our cooperation to guarantee the safety and proliferation-resistance of nuclear energy," U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens said earlier this month.

Some analysts have speculated that given the North's continued refusal to shutter its nuclear weapons program, South Korea could decide to launch its own strategic weapons initiative. Former South Korean leader Park Chung-hee, who ruled during the 1960s and 1970s, had hoped to see the South gain nuclear power status full story

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