South Korea is negotiating with the US on reprocessing nuclear fuel and enriching uranium as it aspires to attain nuclear power, local media reports.
Chosun Ibo, a major conservative newspaper, reported that Seoul was negotiating on revising a nuclear energy agreement, ahead of its expiration in 2014. The revision would allow domestic reprocessing of fuel and uranium enrichment. The 1974 nuclear deal requires US approval for reprocessing and enrichment. Washington had been reluctant over fears of nuclear proliferation.
The move also faces strong opposition from South Korean anti-nuclear civic groups who say that “the move runs counter to the wishes of South Koreans, who want a nuclear-free world”. Seoul and Pyongyang signed a joint declaration in 1991 on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, prohibiting atomic bomb tests and constructing facilities to reprocess nuclear fuel and enrich uranium. According to Asahi Shimbun, the deal was neutralized by North Korea’s nuclear tests.
President Lee Myung-bak is keen on developing the country’s nuclear energy arguing that reprocessing is necessary due to limited storage that will be used up by 2016. Commercial enrichment facilities could also help produce sufficient fuel for the country.
South Korea said that nuclear weapons are necessary at a time when its neighbors are acquiring nuclear power, alluding to Japan’s revision of its Atomic Energy Base Law.