Officials from South Korea and the United States are expected to meet next month to coordinate positions on Seoul's plan to expand its "peaceful and commercial" use of nuclear energy, local media reported Tuesday.
The meeting is aimed to narrow differences ahead of higher-level negotiations on the issue between the two nations, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.
South Korea, currently operating 20 nuclear power plants, is banned from reprocessing spent fuel under a 1974 agreement with the United States, which is to expire in 2014.
Seoul has been making efforts to persuade Washington to "allow" South Korea to pursue a broader commercial nuclear program and revise their decades-old nuclear pact.
The two sides initially sought to start formal talks on the issue this autumn, but it seems difficult to start such negotiations within this year as the two sides need more preparation, the official said.
No date has been set yet for the talks, the official said, noting that director-general-level officials in charge of disarmament issues will first hold a consultation session to discuss the so-called "pyro-processing," a recycling process of spent nuclear materials, not reprocessing it, which Seoul officials say would help develop nuclear energy in a more economic and environmentally friendly way.
Pyro-processing is known for being plutonium-free, but could eventually bolster related technologies. It has not yet been commercialized, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has yet to conclude whether it is a reprocessing or recycling technology.
Experts from both countries will take part in the upcoming consultation session in preparation for future formal negotiations, the official said.