US and South Korea launch new commission

04 March 2016

The USA and South Korea have formally launched the High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) to facilitate strategic dialogue and technical exchanges on peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two countries as required under their bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.

Cho-Sherwood-Randall DOE 460
Cho Tae-yul and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall launch the HLBC in Washington DC
(Image: US Department of Energy)

The commission was formally launched yesterday in Washington DC by US deputy energy secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and South Korean vice minister for foreign affairs Cho Tae-yul, who will serve as its co-chairs. In particular, the senior-level forum will examine the management of used nuclear fuel, the promotion of nuclear exports and export control operations, assurances of nuclear fuel supply, and nuclear security.

Establishment of the HLBC was mandated under the terms of the nuclear cooperation agreement signed by the USA and South Korea last year. Commonly known as 123 agreements, because they are required under paragraph 123 of the USA's 1954 Atomic Energy Act, such cooperation accords are mandatory for any exchange of nuclear goods and services with the USA.

The 20-year agreement was signed in June 2015 after several years of negotiations. The 1973 agreement it replaced had placed constraints on South Korea's nuclear fuel cycle which the country had come to see as excessive. In the two decades following the signature of the first agreement South Korea had itself become a nuclear exporter, building the first power reactors in the United Arab Emirates and supplying heavy components for nuclear power plants under construction in China and the USA. The 2015 agreement provides more freedom for South Korea to manage its nuclear fuel cycle and opens up the future possibility of uranium enrichment and reprocessing, activities that were strictly prohibited under the 1973 agreement.

Sherwood-Randall said that the USA and South Korea had shared over 30 years of close nuclear cooperation. "The creation of the HLBC reaffirms our nations' deep commitment to our joint efforts on nuclear safety and builds on our history of mutually beneficial collaboration in this area," she said.

The HLBC will hold its first meeting in Seoul on 14 April.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News