U.S. and South Korean Cooperation in the World Nuclear Energy Market: Major Policy Considerations [January 28, 2013] [open pdf - 411KB]
"A South Korean consortium recently signed a contract to provide four commercial nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), signaling a new role for South Korea in the world nuclear energy market. The $20 billion deal indicates that South Korea has completed the transition from passive purchaser of turn-key nuclear plants in the 1970s to major nuclear technology supplier, capable of competing with the largest and most experienced nuclear technology companies in the world. The South Korean government reportedly has established a goal for South Korea to capture 20% of the world nuclear power plant market during the next 20 years, and the importance placed by Seoul on the UAE contract was underscored by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's presence at the signing ceremony in the UAE. […] U.S.-Korean nuclear energy cooperation is conducted under a '123 agreement' required by Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. […] As with most U.S. 123 agreements, the existing U.S.-Korean agreement requires U.S. consent for any reprocessing or enrichment activities related to U.S.-supplied materials and technology. Korea is requesting that the new 123 agreement include U.S. advance consent for future Korean civilian reprocessing and enrichment activities. The United States has opposed the idea, on grounds of general nonproliferation policy and the complications that such activities might pose for other security issues on the Korean peninsula. To comply with the 90-day congressional review requirement, a new agreement probably needs to be submitted to Congress by spring 2013. Any lapse in the agreement could affect exports of U.S. nuclear materials and reactor components to Korea, potentially affecting ongoing construction of the UAE project."
CRS Report for Congress, R41032