Negotiations to amend the Agreement for Cooperation between the Korean and U.S. Governments concerning the Civil Use of Atomic Energy are about to be wrapped up in four years and five months. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Affairs Minister Yoon Byeong-se had a meeting in Munich, Germany on Feb. 7 (local time) to promise to finish the talks within weeks.
However, the Korean government is unlikely to win comprehensive prior consent regarding the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, which is a key part of the agreement, due to Washington’s non-proliferation policy. In contrast, Japan can conduct the reprocessing on its own determination, and is currently running facilities for the purpose.
The new agreement is expected to include stipulations regarding uranium enrichment. This means the matter is to be handled during the negotiations to be regulated by Washington. Still, it is said that the Korean government has succeeded in winning the rights to carry out R&D with regard to spent nuclear fuel storage and the like on the condition that concerns over proliferation are absent. In this case, basic research activities as to the transport and storage of spent nuclear fuel and those for steps prior to the pyro processing stage can be carried out independently.
In addition, the new agreement is expected to cover guarantees for the stable supply of nuclear fuel even in the event of emergency, establishment of bilateral cooperation channels for greater nuclear power plant exports, and improvement of transfer of sensitive atomic power station facilities.
The current agreement expires in March next year and the talks for the new agreement are expected to wrap up next month ahead of the ratification by the U.S. Congress. The new agreement is slated to be valid for 30 years, according to U.S. custom.