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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. take first step in implementation of nuclear energy accord

All News 12:09 April 14, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with co-chair's remarks in 5th para)

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States on Thursday took their first step in implementing a bilateral nuclear energy accord that opens a pathway for the Asian ally to develop key technologies and ensure a secure supply of nuclear fuel.

After more than four years of negotiations, the two sides struck a deal last April to revise their 1974 nuclear cooperation pact in a way that reflects South Korea's growing status in the global atomic power industry.

The High Level Bilateral Commission, tasked with enforcing the deal, kicked off its inaugural session in Seoul, led by Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

The panel is the main forum for the two sides to discuss pending issues in their nuclear energy cooperation and is comprised of four working groups to each handle issues related to spent fuel management, assured fuel supply, export cooperation and nuclear security.

"I want to emphasize as we begin this new forum that this is emblematic of the rock solid security commitment that the United States has made to the Republic of Korea and the importance of our continuing to work side by side to ensure the prosperity and security of the peoples of both of our countries," Sherwood-Randall said in her opening remarks.

South Korea wants to develop a new technology known as "pyroprocessing" to better manage its spent nuclear fuel as its storage facilities reach capacity. Pyroprocessing poses fewer proliferation risks than the conventional reprocessing technology because it does not produce pure plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.

South Korea also wants to produce low-enriched uranium for its atomic power plants.

The U.S., however, has expressed concerns about the possible risks to its global nonproliferation drive.


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