By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 23 (Yonhap) -- Gary Samore, President Barack Obama's top aide for nonproliferation, said Monday that the U.S. sees no need for South Korea to enrich uranium, a stance against Seoul's goals.
Samore, arms control coordinator at the White House National Security Council, said South Korean can continue to buy enrichment services from the U.S. and France and in other international markets rather than having its own uranium-enrichment technology.
"So there is no danger that Korean industry will not be able to get access to low enriched uranium," which is fuel for the country's 22 reactors, he said in meeting with several South Korean reporters after a forum on the Nuclear Security Summit. Seoul hosted the second Nuclear Security Summit in March.
"You don't have to worry about any limit Korea will have," he added, citing the nation's record of safe and advanced operation of atomic energy plants.
The forum, organized by the South Korean Embassy here, was designed to review the results of the summit and prepare for the next session in the Netherlands in 2014.
Samore's comments apparently reflect Washington's firm stance to keep restricting South Korea from having uranium-enrichment technology in line with its global nonproliferation efforts.
The allies are in drawn-out talks to rewrite their decades-old nuclear cooperation accord, which expires in 2014.
South Korea hopes to revise the pact so that it can have the right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes and reprocess its nuclear waste amid worries over a shortage of storage facilities.
Seoul claims it need to expand its nonmilitary nuclear program to meet its enhanced status as a nuclear energy producer.
Samore said the U.S. and South Korean scientists are working closely to study so-called pyroprocessing, a new technique for dealing with spent fuel. Pyroprocessing has not been commercialized yet.
He said he was not sure whether negotiations between Seoul and Washington will end within this year. Presidential elections will be held in both the nations later this year.
"I think there will be a solution but I can't predict exactly when that solution will happen," he said. "We have until 2014 and everybody in both Washington and Seoul is deeply committed to continuing our peaceful nuclear cooperation."
South Korea's 22 reactors are a main source of its energy. It imports 20-30 percent of the uranium used there from the U.S. and the rest from Europe, according to data.
South Korea wants to secure the stable supply of nuclear fuel and increase exports of nuclear plants.
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