Seoul Lobbies US Hard for OK to Make Nuclear Fuel

Fear move could spark regional arms race
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2013 4:38 AM CDT
Updated Apr 3, 2013 5:51 AM CDT
Seoul Wants to Make Nuclear Fuel
A woman looks at diagrams showing the use of uranium for a nuclear bomb and nuclear power generation at the Seoul Science Park.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

In a move unlikely to calm nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula, South Korea is pushing the US hard for permission to start creating its own nuclear fuel. The request comes amid a renegotiation of Seoul's 1972 nuclear cooperation pact with the US but while South Korea stresses it isn't trying to match the North's ability to build nuclear weapons, analysts say Seoul has no economic or practical reason to seek the ability to enrich uranium and reprocess fuel from its 22 nuclear reactors, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Seoul argues that it should not be forced to rely on foreign countries for nuclear fuel. "They are pushing hard for this reprocessing ability," says Sen. Bob Corker, who was in talks with senior South Korean officials last week. "There is a lot of national pride in this." He notes that while President Park Geun-hye said the country did not wish to develop nuclear weapons, plenty of other South Korean politicians did—and opinion polls show around two-thirds of the public in favor. Proliferation experts warn that granting Seoul permission to create nuclear fuel could spark an arms race across the entire region. (Read more Park Geun-hye stories.)

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