S Korea-US-nuclear

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States remains worried about South Korea's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and Seoul must do more to erase doubt in order to persuade Washington to allow it to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, a report said Thursday.

The report, commissioned by Seoul's foreign ministry, was published as Seoul and Washington are preparing to resume formal negotiations this month aimed at revising a bilateral civilian nuclear accord.

The 1974 agreement bans Seoul from reprocessing spent fuel because it could yield plutonium that could be used to build atomic bombs. Now, Seoul wants Washington to allow it to use a proliferation-resistant technology for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent atomic fuel.

Washington has been reluctant to do so apparently because of proliferation concerns.

"The U.S. does not cast away doubts over a possibility of proliferation in the wake of nuclear technology development by South Korea," the report said.

Such doubts "prompted the U.S. to express a negative stance on the issues of uranium enrichment and reprocessing spent fuel rods during negotiations on revising the nuclear accord," the report said.

In order to dispel such concerns, South Korea needs to enact a "law of nuclear non-proliferation," it said.

South Korean conservative politicians have a tendency of urging Seoul to arm itself with its own nuclear weapons when North Korea spikes tensions on the Korean Peninsula with nuclear tests.

However, South Korea has committed itself to global non-proliferation measures by signing a series of international frameworks that would make cheating impossible.

South Korea, a major nuclear energy developer, wants the U.S. to allow it to adopt proliferation-resistant technology for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent atomic fuel from its 22 nuclear power plants, but Washington has been reluctant to do so.

In the face of growing nuclear waste stockpiles and its ambition to become a global power in the civilian nuclear industry, South Korea hopes to adopt the so-called pyroprocessing technology, which leaves separated plutonium, the main ingredient in making atomic bombs, mixed with other elements.

South Korea wants the U.S. to allow it to use the new technology because it has to deal with more than 10,000 tons of nuclear waste at storage facilities that are expected to reach capacity by 2016.

Some nonproliferation experts say pyroprocessing is not significantly different from reprocessing, and the plutonium could be quickly turned into weapons-grade material.

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