South Korea said a new nuclear treaty with the United States that will govern its commercial nuclear activities for the next 20 years is set to enter into effect.
The treaty, which replaces a previous accord reached in 1972, will be enforced from 6 p.m. (0900 GMT) Wednesday, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
The countries agreed to the revised treaty in April after spending several years arguing whether South Korea should have the right to enrich and reprocess US-origin nuclear fuel for commercial purposes.
The revised deal continues to deny South Korea that right, but opens the possibility of the country gaining the ability to enrich uranium to produce non-weapons grade nuclear fuel depending on future negotiations with the United States.
South Korea has been seeking the ability to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, which it says will help reduce import costs and support its reactor exports.
It also wants to reprocess spent fuel to reduce its growing storage of nuclear waste.
The US restricts such activities because the same technologies could be used to produce nuclear weapons and fears that supporting South Korea’s enrichment ambitions might send the wrong signal to North Korea, which is developing its own nuclear weapons programme.
In the revised treaty, Seoul and Washington agreed to establish a high-level committee to discuss uranium enrichment for nuclear power generation, which Seoul officials described as a step toward securing potential consent for future enrichment.
The revised deal also gives more leeway to South Korea for research activities and data collection related to spent fuel.