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Progress Unlikely on S. Korea-U.S. Nuclear Pact This Year: Expert Updated: 2012-05-25 12:00:00 KST

Progress Unlikely on S. Korea-U.S. Nuclear Pact This Year: Expert
South Korea and the United States are unlikely to revise a 40-year old nuclear power treaty this year.
That's according to Miles Pomper, a senior reseacher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, speaking a forum hosted by the Korea Economic Institute in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
He added that since both South Korea and the U.S. are gearing up for presidential elections later in the year, neither would want to risk engaging in a politically sensitive battle.
The existing pact between the two nations over the civil use of atomic energy was signed in 1973, and is set to expire in 2014.
Seoul has been negotiating with Washington for a change since 2010, but the two sides have different views over the issue of recycling spent nuclear fuel.
Under the current treaty, the reprocessing or alteration of nuclear materials needs to be undertaken with the joint approval of both countries.
Korea can now only store spent fuel under the control of the United States, but the storage space will be full by 2016.
Seoul has been pressing Washington to allow for the recycling of spent fuel so that it can be reused as fuel for nuclear reactors.
But Washington is worried that the recyling process, known as the 'pyrochemical process,' could be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

[Interview : Hwang Il-soon, Professor
Nuclear Transmutation Energy Research Center of Korea
] "The pyrochemical process that Korea is pursuing has much less risk in producing pure plutonium materials. Nevertheless, if states decide to divert this material out of the process, it is not impossible to make nuclear bomb."

It has been almost 40 years since the treaty was signed.
From a country that at the time was just beginning to introduce nuclear energy, South Korea now runs 21 nuclear reactors.
The Korean government now wants the country's new status to be reflected in the treaty.
Heo Seung-ha, Arirang News.
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