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Korean gov`t ready to let nuclear power treaty with US expire

Korean gov`t ready to let nuclear power treaty with US expire

Posted April. 02, 2013 04:07,   


The Korean government is known to have conveyed a message to the nuclear industry to prepare for the possibility that the bilateral nuclear treaty with the U.S. will expire.

This implies that Seoul is preparing for negotiations to amend the treaty, which will start soon, by even considering letting the deal expire under the strategy of "a battle with no retreat."

If the treaty expires, Korea`s supply of uranium fuel, technology, equipment and materials from the U.S., will be suspended, and remaining stocks of the items must be returned to the U.S. This is expected to set off alarm bells over the operation of nuclear reactors in Korea and projects to export such facilities, including to the United Arab Emirates, and export initiatives targeting Saudi Arabia and other countries.

According to sources at the Korean government and nuclear industry Monday, Seoul recently sent a memo to the sector saying “to specifically figure out problems and prepare for them.” Set to expire in March next year, the treaty will automatically become void if both sides fail to agree on a revision.

Seoul plans to soon request that Washington resume the sixth round of main negotiations, which will come 14 months after the collapse of the fifth round in February last year. Korea’s negotiating team has reportedly finished a review of a draft revision bill from the U.S.

Chances are that the two sides will announce a schedule for resumption of the main negotiations at a bilateral foreign ministers` meeting set for this month in Washington and Seoul.

In the upcoming negotiations to amend the treaty for the first time in 41 years, Korea is demanding the right to reprocess wasted nuclear fuel and to enrich uranium.

An informed source said, “We`ve no intent to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear waste immediately. The key element of our demand is that at least provisions to that effect be included in the treaty to enable Korea to secure a guarantee for the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy over the long term.”

Seoul reportedly proposed to Washington a method to reuse wasted nuclear fuel through pyro-processing, and acquisition of uranium by taking over stakes in enrichment companies overseas. The U.S., however, has stubbornly objected to the idea, citing nuclear nonproliferation policy and the “gold standard (banning both reprocessing and enrichment).”

Sources in the nuclear industry said Korea must prevent expiration of the treaty even by extending the deadline for negotiations, adding that since the U.S. nuclear industry community, which has been working with Korea through consortia, will also suffer damage, one solution is to persuade the U.S. government and Congress by mobilizing the U.S. nuclear sector.