Share | Contact Us | NPEC Email Alerts |
Asia, Pacific Rim Europe Greater Middle East & Africa Russia South Asia


Follow @NuclearPolicy to be the first in on NPEC's latest research

More of NPEC’s Work
A chronological listing by resource:

Articles | Working Papers & Monographs | Interviews | Official Docs & Letters | Op-Eds & Blogs | Press Releases | Presentations | Audio & Video | Testimony & Transcripts | Translations
HOME > REGIONS > Asia, Pacific Rim      
Should the U.S. Encourage South Korea and Japan to Make Plutonium-Based Nuclear Fuels?

NPEC held a Capitol Hill event focusing on what U.S. policy should be regarding South Korean and Japanese ambitions to make nuclear fuels from U.S. materials at a time when we are trying to get Iran and North Korea to stop. Speakers included Frank Von Hippel, former Asst. Dir. of the Office of Science and Technology under President Clinton, and William Tobey, former Dep. Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration under President George W. Bush.

Apr 04, 2013

Should the U.S. Encourage South Korea and Japan to Make Plutonium-Based Nuclear Fuels?


(See Below for Event Video and PowerPoint Presentations)


Date: April 4, 2013
Lunch & Registration: 11:45 AM
Panel & Discussion: 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
Location: Room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building
Meal: A light lunch offering will be provided


Henry Sokolski
Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center




Frank Von Hippel
Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

Former Assistant Director for National Security in the

White House Office of Science and Technology in the Clinton administration

William Tobey
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

Former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation

at the National Nuclear Security Administration in the Bush Administration


Later next month, Secretary of State Kerry will visit South Korea and Japan.  High on the list of topics to be discussed in Seoul will be how to proceed with the renewal of the U.S.-RoK agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation, which will expire early in 2014.  Currently, negotiations have bogged down over Seoul’s request that the U.S. permit it chemically process US nuclear fuel assemblies that already have been used in South Korean reactors to make new, plutonium-based nuclear fuels.  US officials, still eager to get North Korea and Iran to curtail their nuclear fuel making activities (including chemically extracting plutonium, a nuclear explosive material), have so far refused to grant Seoul’s request.  That South Korea previously tried to divert plutonium from its civilian nuclear program to make bombs certainly is a factor.  That said, the US has long allowed Japan to recycle US-origin spent fuel and recently encouraged Tokyo to maintain its plans to recycle to demonstrate how “peaceful” this program is.  Part of Japan’s plans is to open a plutonium reprocessing plant this fall at Rokkasho that would make 1,000 to 2,000 bombs’ worth of plutonium a year.  The potential security implications of such a program have hardly been lost on prominent Japanese and South Korean political figures.  Several of them have recently called for the developing a robust commercial plutonium recycling program as a nuclear weapons option.   To what extent international inspections could safeguard such programs against abrupt or gradual diversions is a matter of debate.

What, then, should US policy toward South Korea and Japanese nuclear recycling ambitions be?  Should the US treat South Korea as it does its other close East Asian security ally, Japan and allow it to recycle US origin spent fuel?   Or should we instead discourage both South Korea and Japan from making plutonium-based fuels?  How quickly must these issues be settled?  What other issues would have to be addressed in either case?

Please join to explore the answers to these questions at an NPEC Capitol Hill lunch seminar in Room 2200 of the Rayburn House Office Building on Thursday, April 4 from 11:45 pm to 1:30 pm,.  The seminar will feature Frank von Hippel, professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and former Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology during the Clinton administration and William Tobey, senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation during the Bush administration.



Event Video, Part 1:

Event Video, Part 2:

Event Video, Part 3:

PowerPoint from Frank von Hippel's presentation:

PowerPoint for William Tobey's presentation:

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
1600 Wilson Blvd. | Suite 640 | Arlington, VA 22209 | phone: 571-970-3187 |