U.S. Wary of South Korea’s Plan to Reuse Nuclear Fuel

Discussion in 'Indo Pacific & East Asia' started by SHASH2K2, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    U.S. Wary of South Korea’s Plan to Reuse Nuclear Fuel
    By CHOE SANG-HUN
    Published: July 13, 2010


    SEOUL, South Korea — Overshadowed by the continuing tension over North Korea’s nuclear program, another nuclear dispute is emerging on the Korean Peninsula — this one between the United States and South Korea.

    South Korea, which has no oil reserves, derives 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors and is running out of space to store the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

    So the South Korean government wants to reprocess the used material — both to provide fuel for its next generation of fast-breeder reactors and to reduce its stored waste.

    But South Korea is prohibited from such activities under a 1974 agreement with the United States. The plutonium that results from reprocessing spent fuel can power nuclear reactors — which South Korea insists is its only goal — but can also be used to make atomic bombs, as North Korea has done.

    Washington wants to rein in the spread of reprocessing and enrichment as it grapples with North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs. It retains some suspicions about South Korea, which briefly pursued nuclear weapons in the 1970s and experimented with reprocessing later. Allowing South Korea to reprocess or enrich the fuel, the United States fears, would set a precedent for other nations and give North Korea a pretext not to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

    “The Americans say no to recycling, but don’t offer an alternative,” said Lee Un-chul, a nuclear scientist at Seoul National University. “They think we might change our minds and build nuclear weapons, depending on the situation with North Korea. In short, they don’t trust us. This is frustrating. We have to fight.”

    That tug of war begins later this year when the two allies start renegotiating their nuclear treaty, which expires in 2014. South Korea is the site of the next nuclear security summit meeting, in 2012.

    Analysts here say that any new deal that would permit Washington to continue blocking South Korea from recycling its fuel — even though it has agreed to let India, which is not even a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, do so — would hurt the national pride of the South Koreans, who have been loyal allies.

    According to local news reports, the South Korean government also wants to acquire a uranium enrichment capacity to make the traditional fuel for reactors — another activity banned by the 1974 accord because enriched uranium can also be used for weapons.

    South Korea’s ambition is tied to its drive to become a major exporter of nuclear reactors. In December, it won a $20 billion contract to build four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates.

    Possible options, according to analysts in the United States and South Korea, include sending South Korea’s spent nuclear fuel to another country, for instance to France, for reprocessing, or constructing a recycling plant in South Korea and placing it under multinational control for security.

    “It’s really our responsibility to work cooperatively with other governments to find ways that the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear power can be obtained without leading to dangerous fuel-cycle activities proliferating,” said Daniel B. Poneman, the United States deputy secretary of energy, in Seoul last month.

    South Korean engineers are championing a new technology called pyroprocessing, which the Bush administration endorsed. They call it “proliferation-resistant” because the plutonium produced through pyroprocessing is not pure and cannot be used directly for nuclear weapons.

    Skeptics say the technology is far more dangerous than leaving the spent fuel intact in storage because a country with South Korea’s nuclear expertise could quickly turn pyroprocessed plutonium into weapons-usable material should it decide to break out of the nonproliferation treaty.

    “The question of whether pyro is reprocessing is a political one, not a technical one,” Sharon Squassoni, director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in an e-mail message.

    Miles A. Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said, “As far as the U.S. government is concerned, I believe this debate is over and pyroprocessing is not considered a different animal than reprocessing.”

    South Korea also feels constrained by its 1992 joint declaration with North Korea, which banned both Koreas from enrichment or reprocessing.

    Cheon Seong-whun, senior analyst at the government-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said that the South should jettison the agreement as a matter of principle because the North had violated it. But if it does, warned Lee Byong-chul, senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation, South Korea would come under “tremendous international suspicion and misunderstanding.”

    Washington is wary of South Korea’s motives. Seoul embarked on its short-lived nuclear arms program in the early 1970s when President Richard M. Nixon reduced the number of American troops in South Korea to 40,000 from 60,000. In 2004, South Korea revealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency that its scientists had dabbled in reprocessing and enrichment without first informing the agency.

    “We are not the South Korea of old days,” Mr. Cheon said. “We will never build nuclear weapons as long as the United States keeps its alliance with us. The Americans continue to look at us through the old lens.”

    Ellen Tauscher, the United States under secretary of state for arms control and international security, told Congress last year that the Obama administration did not believe that advance consent to reprocess was “necessarily appropriate” for countries like South Korea.

    But, Ms. Squassoni said, “It’s a tough call” because the Bush administration did give India advance consent.

    “It is understandable why Seoul would be frustrated that India, a non-NPT state, would be given this deal while South Korea, a loyal U.S. ally and NPT member now in good standing, would face resistance from Washington,” said Mr. Pomper of the Monterey Institute.

    South Koreans’ sensitivity over how their country is treated by the United States, whose recognition and respect often affect their national pride, is perhaps the thorniest issue negotiators from both sides face.

    In the 1990s, a novel in which the two Koreas secretly build nuclear weapons together despite the C.I.A’s assassination of a Korean-American nuclear physicist who was assisting South Korea in this project became a runaway best seller. In the novel, the Koreas launch a nuclear missile at an uninhabited Japanese island as a warning when Japan tries to recolonize the Korean Peninsula.

    Nuclear nationalism in South Korea is not entirely fictional.

    After North Korea’s second nuclear test last year, calls for “nuclear sovereignty” resurfaced among some right-wing politicians. The administration of President Lee Myung-bak is keeping its distance from them as it prepares for the delicate talks with Washington.

    “Nationalism and talk of nuclear sovereignty don’t help,” said Lee Byong-chul, the institute fellow. “It all comes down to whether the United States trusts South Korea. Seoul must convince Washington that it will never build nuclear weapons.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/world/asia/14seoul.html?ref=world
     
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  3. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    I personally think USA is poking too much nose in everyones matter . Even its allies. If he somehow OBAMA manages to get 2nd term USA will not have a single ally left in the world.
     
  4. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    If countries reuse fuel USA dosen't make money by selling more fuel, it is all buisness similar to India-USA nuclear deal
     
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  5. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Its all business for USA and Pain for customers. There will be a day when they refuse to comply . For how long they all keep on following USA guidlines solely for USA financial gains ?
     
  6. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Being a member of NPT i dont know why SK is obliged not to reprocess its fuel.
    Anyways, we hope that the South Koreans get what they want and hit one more nail in the coffin of NPT.
     
  7. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I would give the US the benefit of the doubt. US will not make money out of fuel as most of the uranium comes not from the US but from Australia, Canada and some African countries. Plus they are talking about sending fuel for reprocessing to France.how will the US make anything out from there. There may be genuine US concerns. But then everyone has their own national interests in mind. NPT is one pain in the neck for everyone. Countries will keep cutting deal to by pass it.
     
  8. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Why USA is not allowing South Korea to reprocess spent fuel for peaceful purpose ? They should be allowed to reprocess the fuel. Infact as a business man USA should help Korea in building Plutonium based reactors. New reactors mean more money for USA.
     
  9. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    There isn't a big demand for US reactors a lot US nuclear technology is outdated, in the US-India nuclear deal USA has partnered with Japan to provide reactors .USA has built almost no new reactors in the last 30 years to busy enforcing the NPT.
     
  10. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    New reactors do not mean money for the US. SK is making its own reactors. It just got a 20billion contract to make reactors in UAE. Read the first post.
     
  11. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    My conspiracy theory---->I think usa is in some sort of secret understanding with china over Japan and south korea.Like usa will prevent south korea and japan from acquiring bomb in return for china's cooperation on noerth korean and iranian nuke program.
     
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  12. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I think you are thinking too hard AJ. I dont think the US can trust China more than SK or Japan. NK cannot be controlled by anyone otherwise it would not have tested. Iran is on its own too like NK. US does not gain anything by sacrificing SK and Japan to woo China.
     
  13. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Yusuf USA can still make billions in processing the nuclear waste.
     
  14. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Interesting conspiracy theory,why dosen't this theory apply to pakistan and Iran??
     
  15. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    France is the world leader in reprocessing tech. If you read the report, the US has offered France as an option to reprocess rather than itself.
     
  16. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    This puts India in an interesting position Obama has refused India ENR for atleast 1 year, If South Korea gets to reprocess then it clearly shows the hypocrisy and double standard Obama likes to keep in his foreign policy.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/NSGs-clean-waiver-questioned-/articleshow/6159950.cms
     
  17. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    USA is formulating G-2 so its quite possible that usa on its part will restrain its allies like South Korea and Japan as we saw during Cheonan sinking saga and china will restrain north korea on its nuke program.No you are wrong if you think that north korean missile/nuke program is independent one.North korean and iranian nuke program is as much chinese as pakistan's nuke program is.
     
  18. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Pakistan is special case which is chummy with both or you can say the bridge between china and usa.So its more like to be allowed nukes than iranians and north koreans whose regime is anti usa,which cant be arm twisted unlike pakistanis so easily.
     
  19. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    This G2 is never going to happen it was a trick to have China continue to buy worthless US debt. Actually it is the exact opposite USA is encouraging Japanese militarization.

    http://www.ppjaponesia.org/modules/tinycontent1/index.php?id=1
    Japan's Willing Military Annexation by the United States — "Alliance for the Future"
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010
  20. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    You can never discount any possibilities in present confusing times.Each country is suspicious of other's intention (even with in allies).So let's See On Which Side The Camel Sits.
     
  21. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    off topic

    With new missiles being placed in Guam, Japanese building new offensive weapons and OHIO subs in Chinese waters as well as exercises with South Korea it is clear what USA's intentions are.
     

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