New Korea-U.S. nuclear pact goes into effect

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New Korea-U.S. nuclear pact goes into effect

The newly inked bilateral nuclear energy accord between the United States and Korea, which allows Seoul more leeway toward its goal of limited enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, took effect as of Wednesday evening, said the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert exchanged related diplomatic documents to revamp the bilateral nuclear civilian cooperation pact for the first time in 42 years at the Foreign Ministry in central Seoul.

The two countries clinched the deal, more lenient than its 1974 predecessor, on April 22 after a negotiation process that spanned four and a half years. It was officially signed by authorities in June. The U.S. Congress approved it last month.

In the new deal, Seoul will be allowed a mechanism to produce uranium enriched to less than 20 percent for non-weapons grade nuclear fuel. It also provides leeway for Korea to conduct early-stage experiments on pyroprocessing technology.

The previous nuclear energy pact from 1974 prohibited Korea from enriching uranium because the process can produce plutonium, which can not only power nuclear reactors but also be used to make atomic weapons. It also banned the country from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods from nuclear reactors.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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