Essay from NBR Special Report no. 101
U.S.-ROK Cooperation on Nuclear Energy
An Agenda for Nuclear Growth by 2030
Stronger bilateral cooperation in civil nuclear energy between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will help the domestic nuclear industries in both countries actualize positive growth by the end of this decade and meaningfully contribute to achieving net-zero emissions targets.
The Biden administration set a goal for the U.S. to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, and South Korea has similar aspirations to decarbonize its economy. In order to contribute to these goals, the domestic nuclear industries in both countries must see growth by the end of this decade. There should be an increased focus on how the two countries can cooperate bilaterally on nuclear energy to actualize growth and meet their respective domestic decarbonization goals. The inauguration of Yoon Suk-yeol as the new president of South Korea, along with increasing urgency to meet targets for reducing carbon emissions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, could reinvigorate U.S.-ROK cooperation in nuclear energy.
- U.S.-ROK cooperation in three areas of nuclear energy could be especially important in the coming years: development and deployment of advanced small modular reactors, capacity to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium, and the operation and decommissioning of existing reactors.
- Bolstering the nuclear industries in the U.S. and South Korea will require increasing government-to-government cooperation, expanding corporate partnerships, and increasing investments in nuclear energy. Existing public-private relationships and the High-Level Bilateral Commission can help coordinate these activities.
- Bilateral cooperation should include robust dialogue on how to resolve difficult political issues, such as where to site new nuclear reactors or facilities to manage spent nuclear fuel. Nonetheless, even with such cooperation, central and local governments in both countries will still be responsible for resolving these issues for their jurisdictions.
James E. Platte is an Assistant Professor at the School of Advanced Military Studies.
NOTE: Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Army University, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency.