South Korea-US nuclear energy accord to come into force

Seoul, Nov 25 (IANS) A new civil nuclear energy agreement between South Korea and the US will come into force from Wednesday, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se and US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert will meet at 6.00 p.m. (local time) to exchange protocols on the revised agreement for bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation, Xinhua reported.

With the exchange of protocols, the revised accord will come into force.

The two countries initiated the revised accord on April 22 after four and a half years of negotiations to update the 42-year-old agreement.

South Korea, which generates about a quarter of its electricity with nuclear reactors and exports nuclear power plant equipment and parts, has desired to develop re-processing, or at least pyro-processing, capabilities.

The US has been worried that permitting South Korea to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel could make it difficult to deter other countries from seeking such technologies.

Under the revision, South Korea would be allowed to continue pyro-processing research without consent from the US.

The pyro-processing is seen as having less of proliferation risk as it cannot extract weapons-grade plutonium when re-processing spent fuel.

South Korea will also be allowed to slightly enrich uranium under the updated accord.

Less than 20 percent of the enrichment will be possible if the two countries agree to it through consultations at the standing committee co-chaired by US deputy secretary of energy and South Korean vice foreign minister.

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