WASHINGTON – A senior U.S. official has come out strongly against major powers in East Asia pursuing nuclear reprocessing that nonproliferation experts warn could lead to spiraling quantities of weapons-usable material in a tense region.
Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday that the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel “has little if any economic justification” and raises concerns about nuclear security and nonproliferation.
Republican committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, however, accused the Obama administration of encouraging the production of plutonium, after it eased restrictions on civilian nuclear cooperation with China to allow the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors for nonmilitary purposes.
The U.S. has a similar arrangement with its close ally Japan. It has deferred a decision on giving similar consent to South Korea.