A new nuclear treaty between South Korea and the United States came into effect as of about four hours ago replacing the one that had been in place for the last 42 years.
Arirang News' foreign affairs correspondent Song Ji-sun has been covering the treaty all the way up to the signing moment between representatives from the two countries and she joins us now from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in downtown Seoul.
Ji-sun, the new accord is the first in more than four decades. What more rights regarding commercial nuclear activity does this treaty guarantee South Korea?
"Conn-young, there were no major breakthroughs but Seoul definitely gained some room to expand its peaceful nuclear activity to enriching uranium or reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. Let's take a look at the treaty in details."
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador to Seoul, Mark Lippert exchanged an MOU on Wednesday putting the new nuclear cooperation pact into effect.
It took both sides four and a half years to outline the new treaty as their differences were too big to resolve. With time running out, a separate deal had to be signed to extend the expiration date of the former deal.
The new deal approves Seoul's nuclear research but will only allow development of nuclear fuel "in the future through consultations with the U.S."
Seoul wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel for its fast-growing nuclear energy industry and also wants to reprocess spent fuel to reduce its mounting nuclear waste but Washington is concerned over the possibility of proliferation in the Northeast Asia region.
The two sides will set up a joint committee to follow up on the ways Seoul can reach those goals in collaboration with the U.S.
"And today this new agreement, the US and ROK are world leaders in civil nuclear energy. We have long productive history of nuclear cooperation compounded by very bright future."
"It was a very tough deal to agree upon on. But with continued efforts and trust, we came up with a system along with a very creative formula."
As the world's fourth largest nuclear energy producer with two dozen reactors generating third of its electricity demand, South Korea hopes the deal could give this energy export engine a boost.
"For the enrichment part, we wanted to have our own facilities to guarantee the exporting of uranium fuel to countries that are allowed to receive it. But we could not get those rights, as we do not have the proper technology yet, so I think we have to develop according technologies in the next twenty years."
"Seoul believes the ability to create nuclear fuel would help it pursue deals to sell its own nuclear reactors. It is currently building four nuclear plants,worth nearly 20-billion U.S. dollars,in the United Arab Emirates. Back to you."