Miles A. Pomper is a Senior Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, DC.
When South Korea and the United States negotiated their last nuclear cooperation agreement in the early 1970s, the talks were a low-key affair. As a poor economy lagging behind its Northern neighbor, South Korea did not have a single operating nuclear power plant, let alone piles of spent nuclear fuel. It seemed impossible that a South Korean company would one day be able to design and export nuclear reactors.U.S.nuclear nonproliferation efforts remained in their infancy. The United States had not yet attempted to clamp down on sales of sensitive fuel cycle technology and supplied most of the world’s enriched uranium. Pyongyang and Seoul had not yet pledged not to pursue uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing—which can be used for nuclear weapons or nuclear energy—and Pyongyang had yet to violate that agreement. Iran was still a U.S.ally. Not surprisingly, little political attention or concern was attached to the U.S.-South Korea nuclear pact. Read more »