South Korea and the United States are likely to seek to promote "strategic cooperation" in civilian nuclear energy areas as they are discussing renewing a bilateral nuclear energy pact, sources said Thursday.
South Korea and the U.S. have been in talks on the renewal of the 1974 accord over Seoul's civil nuclear energy use, also known as the "123 Agreement," which bans Seoul from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel on proliferation concerns.
South Korea has been seeking to revise it in a bid to meet growing energy demand at home and help its exports of nuclear power plants. But the U.S. has been reluctant to do so, apparently due to a possible negative impact on its global nonproliferation campaign amid concerns over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
A draft of a new nuclear pact contains the wording of promoting "strategic cooperation" in the nuclear energy issues among the two sides, according to sources.
South Korea has been seeking to upgrade its strategic cooperation with the U.S. by taking into account its enhanced status in the nuclear power industry.
One of the remaining thorny issues over the accord renewal is whether Seoul can be allowed to use the so-called "pyroprocessing"
technology, a reprocessing technology considered as posing less proliferation risks as it leaves separated plutonium mixed with other elements.
South Korea has wanted to use the technology as it can help ease the headache of disposing of nuclear waste in a country with a small territory. But Washington has been reluctant to allow South Korea to do so due to proliferation concerns.
The nuke accord, signed in 1974, was supposed to expire in March, but the two countries agreed to extend it by two years to March 2016 in order to buy time for further negotiations. (Yonhap)