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EU: 75 Million ECU for North Korean Nukes

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 13, 1997) On May 15, the European Union agreed to join the international KEDO consortium. KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization) is the contractor for the construction of two light water reactors to be built in North Korea.

(474.4700) WISE Amsterdam -An agreement for the construction of the two reactors was signed in 1994. It was the result of long negotiations between the United States and North Korea, after suspicion arose that North Korea was developing a parallel military nuclear program. North Korea promised to freeze and dismantle its indigenous nuclear program and allow IAEA inspections, and KEDO promised to supply two Light Water Reactors and 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil per year for heating and electricity. (see WISE NC 445.4409)

After formal approval by the EU foreign ministers, the European's Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) will become an executive board member of KEDO. The other board members are the US, South Korea and Japan. General members of KEDO are Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Indonesia, Finland, Argentina and Chile.

The 15-country European Union's membership in the KEDO had been expected for some months. It was first announced in March by KEDO's executive director, Stephen Bosworth.

The European Union agreed to pay 75 million ECUs (US$86 million) in the coming five years for the project. The whole project of constructing the two 1000-MW reactors is to cost an estimated US$4.5 billion.

A spokesperson for the EU Trade Commissioner said it is a deal of "enormous political and financial significance. It shows for the first time that we do not only have a commercial interest in East Asia but a strategic interest to promote peace and security there." However, the agreement means that the industry of the EU countries have more possibilities to compete for the entire US$4.5 billion on contracts.

Ground-breaking for the project has been postponed several times due to continuous political tension between the two Koreas. The IAEA is not happy with the cooperation of North Korea either. Hans Blix, the director general, said that "in regard to the freezing of the nuclear facilities, North Korea has been cooperative, but there has been no progress in securing information" (on the operations of the nuclear reactors).


  • Reuter, 21 & 22 May 1997
  • Korea Herald, 10 October 1996

Higher radiation readings of Taiwan waste to be sent to N. Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 30, 1997)  Greenpeace announced on May 15 the discovery of major misrepresentations in the classification of radioactive waste to be exported by the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) to North Korea.

(473.4686) WISE Amsterdam -Greenpeace spokesperson Ho Wai Chi said the discovery raises serious concerns for the safe transport and storage of the waste. "The waste is significantly more radioactive than Taipower claims," said Ho. "Taipower has misled the people of Taiwan, the international community and the governments of neighboring countries about the dangers associated with shipping and disposing of their radioactive waste in North Korea."

Taipower, Taiwan's government-run power utility, signed a contract in January to ship up to 200,000 barrels of low-level waste for final storage in North Korea. (see WISE NC 468.4660). The shipments are expected to begin in a few months. Strong local opposition by the indigenous Yami people to the dumping of nuclear waste in shallow trenches on Lanyu Island, 65 kilometers off Taiwan's southeast coast, and by five candidate communities for a new waste disposal facility on Taiwan, forced the company to search abroad, where they failed in attempts to finalize plans to dump the waste in the Marshall Islands and Russia. If the shipments proceed, they set a dangerous precedent: it would be the first time, anywhere, that radioactive waste is exported for final storage.

The Greenpeace team was accom-panied by John Large of Large & Associates, a British nuclear engineering firm retained by Green-peace to do an independent evaluation of Taiwan's nuclear waste sector. The group conducted a 10-day study of the nuclear waste sector, and inspected waste facilities at the Kuo Sheng nuclear power plant and on Lanyu Island.

They discovered that the so-called low-level radioactive waste, which Taipower plans to export to North Korea, contains ion exchange resins and filter masses, some of the most dangerous wastes produced by nuclear reactors. Ion exchange resins are used to strip liquid streams in the reactor primary circuit and irradiated (spent) storage fuel ponds. The resin beads or pellets concentrate a wide range of (radio) activated and fission products. In terms of (radio) activity and persistence (half-life) ion exchange resins are very active (20.1012 Bq/m3 to 200.1012 Bq/m3) and very long-lived (tens of thousands of years). The current Taiwan nuclear program will generate approximately 100-120 m3/year raw ion exchange waste, or about 200-290 m3 packaged per year.
"The waste that Taipower chooses to call low level, and claims will not demand special handling, is actually a soup of highly radioactive poisons that requires complex technology, highly trained personnel, and a fully developed infrastructure in order to fulfill the most rudimentary safety requirements," said Large.
Ho added: "By exporting their waste, Taipower is creating the potential for serious environmental consequences for North Korea. Taipower must deal with its own waste, including removing it from Lanyu Island, and it must immediately cancel this dangerous and irresponsible agreement with North Korea".

Although no international agreement at present bans waste exports, the scheme is clearly in violation of the principle of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that radioactive waste must be cared for in the country of origin unless safety of treatment is enhanced by export. The IAEA General Conference Resolution of September 20, 1996, states: "...Radioactive waste should, as far as compatible with the safe management of such material, be disposed of in the State in which it was generated, whilst recognising that, in certain circumstances, safe management of radioactive waste might be fostered through voluntary agreements among Member States to use facilities in one of them for the benefit of the other States..." The principle is repeated in Point IX of the Preamble to the Draft Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. The convention will be opened up for signature in September or October 1997. All countries will be able to become parties to the Convention, not only IAEA member states.
Meanwhile, Hans Blix the Director General of the IAEA said on May 27, during a visit in South Korea, that the planned waste Taiwan-North Korea exports will not be supervised by the IAEA: "No international organisation has supervisory rights".
Blix also said that China is looking to the option to take the waste to resolve a row between Taiwan and South Korea.


  • Pressrelease Greenpeace
  • UPI and Reuter, 27 May 1997

Contact: Greenpeace China (Clement Lam, Ho Wai Chi, Anne Dingwall). Mandarin Building, Room 303-305, 3543 Bonham Strand, East, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. People's Republic of China.
Tel: +852 2854 8300 or +852 9027 2081;
Fax: +852 2745 2426

Rad-waste for food? Taiwan looks to North Korea for nuclear relief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) There was outrage in capitalist South Korea when the (government owned) Taiwan Power Company announced that it had signed a contract with North Korea on January 11, 1997 to ship 200,000 barrels of low-level waste to North Korea from as early as March 1997.

(468.4660) Anna Gyorgy /Green Korea -The contract called for an initial shipment of 60,000 barrels within the first two years. The North reported that it would receive US $1,150 per barrel, "in addition to an undisclosed lump sum for site preparation and shipping (assuming North Korean freighters are used)." This is foreign exchange that economically isolated North Korea badly needs. (see WISE NC 466.4628)

The South Korean government quickly condemned the plan, without mentioning its own radioactive waste woes. And Korea's dynamic environmental and other civic groups quickly responded with a series of actions ranging from an initial burning of the Taiwanese flag (later rejected as too provocative a tactic in a region where nationalist sentiments run strong) to signature gathering and demonstrations, some, as on February 14, coordinated world-wide, with demonstrations taking part at Taiwanese missions in Asia, Europe and the US. Anti-nuclear groups opposed the deal - the first time that one country has attempted to "dispose" of its rad-waste permanently in another - as a form of "environmental imperialism."

In late January six Green Korea activists flew to Taipei to hold a week-long hunger strike in front of the state-owned Taiwan Power Company ("Taipower") headquarters in Taipei to oppose the planned shipments. Their action was supported by and coordinated with the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), which has long opposed nuclear construction in Taiwan and past government plans for waste storage. Green Korea and TEPU called on their countries to offer technological and economic assistance to North Korea, instead of "selling" them nuclear waste. After two days the peaceful group, seated in front of Taipower with banners against the waste export, was assaulted by ultra-rightwing Chinese-Taiwanese nationalists as police stood by. Later that day the Koreans were expelled from Taiwan, and continued their protest in front of the Taiwanese representative office in downtown Seoul.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese environmental activists continued the protest in front of Taipower, issuing a statement that read in part: "If Taiwan is incapable of managing the nuclear waste problems, it should not develop nuclear power. The Taiwan government must terminate construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and immediately stop operating the No. 1, 2 and 3 nuclear power plants. The only way to solve the nuclear waste problem is not to produce wastes in the first place."

Taiwan: with democracy, opposition to nuclear power
Taiwan's nuclear program was developed under a tightly-controlled authoritarian regime. "As Taiwan society gradually became more and more liberalized," the president of TEPU reported to the No Nukes Asia Forum in 1995, "the people ceased their silence. In 1984, the building of nuclear power plant #4 was proposed, and it received open criticism from congressmen. Yet little attention was paid until the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl in 1986."

Since 1982 the state-owned Taipower has shipped low and mid-level nuclear waste from its three nuclear power plants to the Long-men Nuclear Waste Depository on Orchid Island. Also called Lan Yu, this beautiful island off Taiwan's southern coast has a unique ecosystem and is home to 3,000 Yami, the most isolated of Taiwan's indigenous peoples. After storing 98,000 barrels of nuclear waste on the island, Taipower faced widespread protests in 1995 when it broke its promise to the Yami to cancel any expansion of the facility and approved plans to store an additional 100,000 drums of nuclear waste in Long-Men. The Yami fear contamination of soil and sea from leaking barrels; the Taiwan Atomic Energy Council has admitted that some of the drums of waste have rusted. Now all the wastes, including those previously stored at Lan Yu, are to go to North Korea.

"We now see a new form of 'environmental imperialism' in which richer countries try to pass on their dangerous radioactive waste legacy to others who desperately need foreign exchange to help their economic situation," said Green Korea in an international alert following their expulsion from Taiwan. "A victory over this export attempt will set an important international precedent against storing 'waste for cash' in other nations' back yards, and strengthen the movement towards nuclear phase-out."

North Korean sources reported that the waste would be stored in a closed mine in Pyungsan, Whanghaebukdo, North Korea. According to the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM): "The underground water table can be infiltrated due to the carelessly developed tunnel and mining area. Furthermore, there is danger of an earthquake as the mine is located near geographical faults. In addition, it will take at least five or ten years to build the treatment facilities for the nuclear waste. If 60,000 barrels of waste are dumped within two years, it will only be discarded as waste in a closed mine with its (limited) facilities."

The larger picture
The waste export deal has a number of important international implications. By seeking this tie with North Korea, Taiwan may well be looking towards future investment there, as the North's state-controlled economy slowly opens after the collapse of the Cold War-era socialist trading bloc. Certainly, Taiwan's newly strengthened relationship with North Korea will anger both China and South Korea. Since the Korean War, China has been a close ally of the North, so "Pyongyang's (NK) recognition of Taiwan means a slap in the face for Beijing" ("The Korea Times"). Taiwan has also had less than friendly ties with South Korea since that government switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1992. Thus South Korean government appeals have fallen on deaf ears in Taiwan. And a Pyongyang representative in Taipei, said that Seoul should "tend to its own business before interfering with that of others." (Korea Times, Jan. 20/97)

This is not the first time that the divided Koreas have squared off on rad-waste plans. For the nuclear plant-laden South has yet to find a site for its own radioactive wastes. The most recent choice was a small island in the Yellow Sea off Korea's west coast, close to the border with the North. At that time (end 1994-95) the North opposed the site as a danger to their own health and safety. The plan was finally dropped in the face of citizen protest and geological studies showing deep fissures in the island's supposedly stable rock.

Meanwhile, plans for a twin 1000 Mw reactor light-water nuclear facility to be built by the south in the north proceed, the result of a US-engineered "trade-off" in which North Korea shut its small weapons-related nuclear reactor. There has been some discussion in the Korean press that the big reactor deal may be threatened if the North does not reject Taiwan's wastes. But as early spring came to the peninsula in late February, plans and initial site work for the project were proceeding.

Not only is the Taiwan-NK deal the first rad-waste export contract, but such trans-boundary exchanges are currently allowed. The Basel Convention and the London Dumping Treaty set a base-line international consensus against the export of hazardous wastes. The Lomé and Bamako Conventions prohibit the export of radioactive waste to developing countries. However Article 26 of the nuclear waste management treaty currently being drafted by the IAEA is seriously flawed, because it allows the uncontrolled export of radioactive materials. If this article is approved as it currently stands, there could be a movement of radioactive waste internationally. Poor countries might find it acceptable to accept the cancer-causing legacy of others. The IAEA treaty as currently drafted will legalize "environmental imperialism."

Not one of the thirty-eight countries with nuclear power plants has yet solved the nuclear waste dilemma. Both Taiwan and South Korea have had serious technical and social problems with their waste policy. Despite the heavy burden it places on our society, the South Korean government plans to operate a total of 29 nuclear reactors around the year 2010. In East Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and China also plan to depend on nuclear-generated electricity. Says Green Korea: "We must recognize that the only way to prevent the specter of nuclear wastes contaminating the environment and people over thousands of years, is not to create them in the first place."

International support is needed and welcomed.

Source & Contact: Green Korea, 385-108 Hapjong-dong, Mapu-ku, Seoul, Korea
Fax: +82-2-325-5677

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), No. 29, Lane 128, Sec 3 Roosveldt Rd., Taipei, Taiwan
tel: +886-2-363-6419
Fax: +886-2-362-3458


Protests against waste shipment from Taiwan to North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(February 7, 1997) On January 11, Taiwan signed a contract with North Korea about the shipment of 60,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste in the next two years, with the option to ship another 140,000 barrels later on (see WISE NC 465.4622).

(466.4628) WISE Amsterdam - According to a statement of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), the waste would be stored in a closed mine in Pyungsan, Whanghaebukdo, which is bound to several problems.

It said in a statement on January 23: 'The underground water table can be infiltrated due to the carelessly developed tunnel and mining area. Furthermore, there is the danger of an earthquake as the mine is located near geographical faults. In addition, it will take at least five or ten years to build the treatment facilities for the nuclear waste. If 60,000 barrels of waste is dumped for two years, it will only be discarded as a waste in a closed mine with its little or no facilities.' Taipei will pay its cash-starved counterpart US$1,150 per barrel. Taiwan's own nuclear waste dump on Lanyu island has nearly reached its capacity of 98,112 barrels and, surrendering to anti-nuclear protests, was promised to be emptied by 2002.

Since the contract was made public on January 13, there have been international protests, especially in South Korea, but in Japan and in the US. South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo Chong-ha warned of 'political and economic' measures if Taiwan fails to withdraw its plan. He said the issue could develop into the hottest diplomatic row between Seoul and Taipei since they severed ties in 1992. South Korean officials were quoted to be considering the use of armed forces, if diplomatic means fail.

On January 29, six environmental activists began a hunger strike in Taipei to pressure the Taiwanese government to stop the deal. 'The Taiwan government is trying to solve its mounting waste problem by profiting from the serious famine in North Korea,' Jang Won, leader of Green Korea, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said in a statement.

And in South Korea, there were several demonstrations, in which Taiwanese flags and effigies of the Taiwan president were burned. On January 28, North Korean advisers visited the Taiwan nuclear waste dump at Lanyu island. North Korea is to be in charge of the transports, the first of which will take place as early as February, local media reported.


  • Reuter, 27, 28, 29 January 1997
  • Korean Times, 23 January 1997
  • KPS, 24 January 1997
  • Statement from KFEM, 23 January 1997

Contact: KFEM, #251, Nooha-dong, Chongno-Gu, Seoul, 110-042, South Korea;
Fax: +82-2-730-1240

Taiwan: Radwaste to North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 24, 1997) The Taiwan Power Company stopped dumping nuclear waste on its only disposal on Lanyu island last July, because of capacity problems. It is now looking for another site, and is considering the offshore island of Matsu, the eastern counties of Hualien and Taitung, and the southern county of Pingtung.

(465.4622) WISE Amsterdam -The utility gave U.S.$1.8 million to each of the local governments to þappreciate their participationþ, and promised U.S.$109 million for the local government and the residents of the final site. After environmental protests, Taiwan Power promised to remove all the nuclear waste from Lanyu until 2002.

In a surprise statement on January 13, Taipower announced it would ship 60,000 barrels of nuclear waste to North Korea within the next two years. The deal was signed on January 11. Under the contract, Taipower has an option to ship a total of up to 200,000 barrels of nuclear waste to North Korea. Company president Hsi Shih-chi would not disclose financial arrangements with impoverished North Korea, which presumably extracted a substantial cash payment in exchange for agreeing to take the waste. According to Taipower, this deal will allow them to remove the waste from Lanyu before 2002. But the company continues to contact the Marshall Island and Russia for further contracts.

Sources: Reuter, 1 & 13 January 1997
Contact: WISE-Tokyo

N-Korea LWR-supply agreement

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(July 12, 1996) KEDO, the U.S., Japanese and South Korean consortium, and North Korea have reached agreement on protocols for transportation and communications as part of a nuclear agreement with Pyongyang, a spokesman for the consortium said on June 17.

(455.4507) WISE-Amsterdam - The talks between the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) and North Korea began on April 16 following a $4.5 billion deal signed in December 1995 to provide Pyongyang with two Western-made light water reactors promised in a 1994 accord in which North Korea froze its own nuclear programme. (see WISE NC 445.4409). In May KEDO and Pyongyang agreed on the text of a protocol on the juridicial status, privileges, immunities and consular protection for KEDO in North Korea. A KEDO spokesman said other protocols on the project site and use of North Korean labour and goods would be discussed "over the coming months" in North Korea and New York.

The 1995 accord was signed after three years of difficult negotiations on replacing communist North Korea's nuclear programme with one that produced less weapons-grade plutonium. Light water reactors are less suitable for producing plutonium for weapons, the purpose for which Washington and its allies suspected North Korea was using its Soviet-model plants.

Sources: Reuter, 17 June 1996
Contact: No Nukes Asia Forum, Ducksoo B/d 4th Fl, Sinmunno 1 ga 31, Chongno-ku Seoul 110-061, Korea.
Tel: +82-2-735 7000; Fax: +82-2-741 1240

N. Korea-US nuclear agreement

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 19, 1996) North Korea and KEDO, a U.S.-led consortium, signed finally the agreement to build two 1000MW Pressurized light-water reactors (PWRs) in North Korea. An Agreed Framework Agreement about the delivery of the two reactors was signed in October 1994 in Geneva, after an international crisis that emerged after North Korea formally withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in March 1993.

(445.4409) WISE-Amsterdam - Pyongyang suspended its decision in June 1993, but was widely believed to be using its graphite-moderated reactors to produce weapons-grade plutonium, which is more difficult to extract at light-water reactors. (see also WISE NC 415/6.4125)

The reactors, to be built with financial and technical contributions from more than 20 countries, including the United States, South Korea and Japan, will be completed by 2003. The now signed agreement includes selection of sites, training and problems dealing with maintenance, nuclear safety and regulations and intellectual property. Many of the technical details still remain to be worked out, including the selection of a US engineering contractor to oversee construction.

A geological survey team is expected to visit North Korea in January or February to prepare for the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors, a Seoul Foreign Ministry official said. The 20-member team will represent the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an international consortium led by South Korea, the United States and Japan that signed the $4.5 billion deal to replace Pyongyang's graphite reactors. The survey team will include 17 South Koreans and enter North Korea from Beijing and will focus on the possible impact of an earthquake on Shinpo, the proposed reactor site.

Two containers of equipment to be used for the study left the South Korean port of Pusan on January 14 for the port of Shinpo in North Korea, the official said.


  • Reuter 15 & 28 Dec 1995, 9 Jan 1996
  • Trouw (NL) 15 Jan 1996

Contact: Asia No Nukes Forum. Ducksoo B/d 4th Fl., Sinmunno 1 ga 31, Chongno-ku, Seoul 110-061, Korea.
Tel: +82-2-735 7000; Fax: +82-2-741 1240

US, North Korea closer to agreement

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Dedicated to the Non Proliferation Treaty and its Extension conference.

(June 16, 1995) The negotiations between North Korea and the US on the implementation of their earlier agreement on the modernization of North Korea's nuclear power plants are coming to an end. The negotiations had a very difficult start and had been postponed because North Korea did not want the new nuclear power plants to be built in North Korea to be coming from South Korea. The last round of the meetings started 20 May in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

(433/34.4290) WISE Amsterdam - According to North Korea's press office, the two parties have come to an agreement. North Korea had earlier warned that if the negotiations failed, it was capable of making three nuclear bombs out of the plutonium it now has.

In October last year, the US and North Korea agreed that Pyongyang would get two new light water reactors which produce less plutonium. Since South Korea was willing to pay the biggest part of the US$4 billion costs, the US proposed that South Korea deliver the nuclear plants. North Korea however balked.

According to South Korean newspapers, North Korea had then agreed to the delivery of the reactors by the multinational Organization of Energy Development on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea had reportedly promised to accept the manufacturer designated by this multinational entity, which is to be directed by the US, South Korea and Japan.


An agreement between North-Korea and the US has been reached. The multinational company Korean Peninsula energy Development Organisation (Kedo) will supply the two light water reactors. The head of the company is an American and not someone from South Korea as had earlier been proposed by the US. Due to that shift, North Korea no longer had any objections to the deal.
Trouw NL, 14 June 1995
It appears however that North Korea had again put up new demands, such as the request for an extra one billion dollars. South Korea had become very much concerned that the US would accept compromises too easily.

Source: Trouw (NL), 8 and 9 June 1995

Contact: Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, 4th Duksoo Bldg. Shinmoon-Ro 1ga 31, Chongro-ku, Seoul Korea.
Tel: +82-2-735 7000 Fax: +82-2-741 1240


North Korean nuclear realities

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(August 19, 1994) In writing this article, I have elected to say relatively little about the matters that have received the greatest press attention, namely the threat of war, sanctions, the sanity and personal habits of North Korean leaders and the 'realpolitik' of the situation, and have tried instead to focus attention on the somewhat neglected realities of the North Korean nuclear industry, on the question of whether or not the DPRK does or does not have weapons, and on the extent and nature of its nuclear program in comparison with the programs of other countries (South Korea and Japan) and particularly other proliferators such as India, Pakistan, Israel, and South Africa.

(415/6.4125) John Hallam Writing about North Korea isn't easy. It's a 'moving target', and a country about which very little is known. Every time the writer thinks he knows something, there's a new development Just to emphasize the point, Kim Il Sung died on 8 July, immediately before I started writing, adding yet another layer of uncertainty to what is already a complicated enough picture.

The best way into the maze is probably to take a look at the nuclear programs of both North and South Korea, and the relative proliferation proneness of the DPRK program in comparison with South Korea (ROK), India, Pakistan, and Japan.

A look at North Korea's nuclear program in comparison with others is enough to show that it is indeed modest - almost puny - in comparison with the nuclear programs of others. Because of its economic isolation and its wish to 'go it alone' consistent with its philosophy of 'juche', North Korea has opted for a nuclear program based on 'indigenous' technology which is in fact cloning copies of 30, 50, and 200Mw UK Gas-cooled 'magnox' designs of the 50's. At present, a 20-30Mw Thermal gas-cooled reactor is operating, a 50Mwe reactor described as being a copy of the UK's Calder Hall plants is coming into operation in 1995-6, and a 200Mwe plant is scheduled to come into operation in 1996. As of June'94, work on the 50Mwe plant had been slowed down, while work on the 200Mwe plant had been speeded up.

The 20-30MwTh plant is located at Yongbyon together with a 5-8Mw IRT pool-type reactor, and the 50Mwe plant under construction. The 200Mwe reactor is located at Taechon. In addition, the DPRK intends to construct 4 x 440Mwe VVER plants at Sinpo, and a number of 635Mwe LWR plants. (Nuclear Developments in the Asian and Pacific Region p 9-10, ANSTO 1993]

It is often not clear even precisely which reactors whose refueling is controversial, and this is so even in the technical literature. It is important to note that the 5OMwe and the 200Mwe plants referred to in official reports are power reactors, and the DPRK has currently no operating power reactors (though I have seen references to the 20-30Mw gas cooled plant which is the subject of the controversy having an electrical power output of 5Mwe, but I think this is a confusion).

The reactor in question seems to have entered operation in 1986, and North Korea says that its core has not been changed since then, though the reactor was shut down for three months in 1989. According to industry literature:
"Officials familiar with the design of a 30Mw (thermal) 'indigenous' gas-cooled reactor at Yongbyon say that facility closely resembles British Nuclear Fuel's limited's Calder Hall reactors, design information for which was declassified during the 1950s."
[Nuclear Fuel, (NF) Feb 28, 1994 p6]. According to an April '94 report "The reactor, graphite-moderated and air-cooled, is said to have a thermal rating of 20-30Mw, and has been operating since late 1986."

It is this reactor, about the same size as the Indonesian research reactor and the CIRUS facility in India, that has been the focus of IAEA concern. But even industry journals display confusion between this reactor, the 50Mwe Magnox plant under construction at Yongbyon, the 200Mwe plant under construction at Taechon, and the 5/8MwTh pool-type research reactor supplied by the Russians in 1965.

It will be however, possible to operate the 50Mwe and 200Mwe gas-cooled reactors as weapons-grade plutonium-production reactors. In contrast, South Korea has a much more substantial nuclear program. It has 9 PWRs of 550-900Mwe and 1 Candu plant in operation, 4 PWRs and 3 Candu plants under construction, and 'firm plans' for 8 more PWRs and 3 more Candu plants.

Concern has been raised over the proliferative possibilities of North Korea's relatively more primitive gas-cooled reactors which, when the UK first used the design in the 1950s, were primarily meant for plutonium production, a process that demands the ability to refuel the reactor in operation, something that can't be done with PWR plants, though it can be done with Candu plants, of which the ROK will shortly have three. One reason for this is that if fuel is kept in the reactor for long periods - optimum for electricity generation - there is a buildup of 'higher' isotopes of plutonium which is messy to use from a weapons point of view.

So the DPRK will shortly have 250 Mwe of Magnox capacity. When the UK operated its magnox plants from 1956-64 in weapons-grade plutonium production mode, the 50 Mwe Calder Hall plants produced about 76 Kg of plutonium per year. [Pers.Comm Frans Berkhout to Peter Hayes in 'Should the United States Supply Light Water Reactors to Pyongyang?' NPR, Nov 1993, on Peg. Asia. Security.] On this basis, Peter Hayes calculates that a DPRK plant would produce about 315 Kg/y of weapons-grade Pu.

In May 1993, Peter Hayes visited the Heavy industry exhibit in Pyongyang, which featured a display of DPRK nuclear fuel cycle facilities. A cutaway of the 20 Mwe reactor planned for Taechong revealed primary and secondary heat exchange systems plus two generators. However, satellite photos of the Yongbyon nuclear complex where the 50 Mw gas-cooled reactor and the controversial 20-30 Mw reactor is don't reveal any high-tension lines coming from the complex. Hayes, like our own ANSTO, also only acknowledges the existence of the 50 Mw 6CR under construction at Yongbyon, and the 5 MwTh IRT pool reactor. According to both Hayes and ANSTO, the only reactor actually operating in the DPRK is a somewhat aging 5 Mw pool-type reactor supplied by the USSR and upgraded to 8 mwTh in the 1980s.

In contrast, Australia's own research reactor at Lucas Heights is of l0MwTh capacity. South Korea has a 3OMwt research reactor under construction, and two Triga reactors of 2Mwth and 250Kw. Japan has

20 research reactors of various types, varying from 100Kw to 100Mw, with the 50Mw JMTR and the 20Mw JRR-3m in between.

Of the countries that have been the object of proliferation concerns, India has, as well as a large indigenous power reactor program based on CANDU technology entirely outside the NPT framework, 4 research reactors including the l00MwTh Dhruva at Trombay, and the 40MwTh CIRUS from which the plutonium for India's 1974 'Peaceful Nuclear Explosion' originated.

Pakistan has a comparatively modest 10Mw research reactor, but has chosen to develop nuclear weapons by means of the enrichment route, with uranium enrichment cascades at Kahuta.

What has caused additional alarm is the DPRK's reprocessing program. The DPRK has constructed a large reprocessing complex at the Yongbyon site. In 1992, the latest year for which definite information is available, civil works were 80% complete, but only 40% of the process equipment had been installed. The plant is described as 'mammoth', at 180m long and 6 stories high, but has been assumed to be not yet operational. [NF, Feb 28, 1994 p6]

The DPRK seems to have duplicated certain aspects of a spent-fuel reprocessing plant operated by Eurochemic at Mol in Belgium from 1966-74 at its Yongbyon plant. Specifically, the Yongbyon plant copies techniques developed by Eurochemic for removing cladding from spent fuel, and for bitumenising medium-level waste.

The Eurochemic technique for the chemical decladding of fuel turns out to be particularly good for use with irradiated magnesium-alloy fuel of the type produced by the Yongbyon gas-cooled reactor. The basic plutonium extraction process at Yongbyon seems to be a simple 'purex' process supplied by the USSR. The Eurochemic processes for decladding and bitumenisation are however, more technologically sophisticated, require special remote handling equipment, and are 'absolutely unique' to Eurochemic. [NF, Feb 28, 1994 p6]

The DPRK has admitted reprocessing and extracting a small amount (90 grams) of plutonium so far, which was declared to the JAEA in 1990. Obviously this could not have been done at the Yongbyon plant, as it was still very much under construction. But western officials and US intelligence say that the DPRK has produced quantities of waste that indicate that they have actually produced much more than 90 grams of Pu. This waste is at two sites one of which the IAEA has visited, and one of which is known only from spy - satellite photos. According to one official: "We know they have the Belgian technology. It remains to be seen whether they have used it yet." [NF, Feb 28, 1994 p7]

It is known that at least since the 1960s, 'several hundred' North Korean experts were trained in plutonium separation in the USSR and China. [Nucleonics Week, (NWK) Jan 6, 1994 p10] But while weapons-related activities in erstwhile proliferator Iraq were traceable by the purchase of 'dual-use' materials and equipment (such as centrifuge components and high-speed switches, detonators, and flash

x-ray equipment used for implosion testing) - no such equipment trail is visible for North Korea. The DPRK seems to have obtained some dual-use equipment from German and Swiss firms including Degussa and Leybold-Heraus GmbH (also involved in the supply of equipment to Iraq) as well as Siemens Ag.

In addition, the DPRK is suspected of having obtained dual-use equipment from Japan and the USSR. And in November 1990, an attempt by the DPRK to obtain detonation capacitors via Singapore was halted. But according to one US official: "Why should the DPRK have gone to industry in Germany for equipment it could have obtained from China?"

Suspicion that the DPRK may have extracted more plutonium than a mere 90 grams centres round a mysterious shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor in 1989. The DPRK claims that no fuel has been removed from the reactor since fuel was first inserted in 1986. However, according to a former official at Yongbyon who defected to South Korea in May'94, the DPRK has secretly extracted 12Kg of Pu -enough for two bombs. [WISE 413, June 3, 1994 p1 from Greenbase] In addition, in mid '93, it was learned that the DPRK had converted some plutonium nitrate into metal - an indication that the DPRK has been developing the ability to make fissile cores. [NWK, July 8, 1993 p2]

Other suspicious rumors abound, notably a claim by a high-ranking army official who defected to South Korea in 1993, that a severe accident was caused when a nuclear installation or device (not specified in the report) was removed(!) from Pyongyang in an attempt to prevent an inspection by the IAEA. [WISE 398, 24 Sept, 1993]

In late 1993, it was widely reported that North Korea 'had flukes' and that US action to stop the DPRK nuclear program was imminent. On 15 Oct'93, the Pac Rim Intelligence Report revealed that according to the ROK embassy in France, France believed that North Korea had developed nuclear weapons. The French claim was based on photographic satellite analysis of the Yongbyon facility. [Nuc.Facilities, 1.19 pm Oct 15, 1993] There was other evidence of DPRK weapons work including 'the trace of a detonation test'.

US intelligence has 'found evidence' of more than 70 high-explosive tests, so there's little doubt that the DPRK is working on weapons.

But this kind of analysis is far from conclusive. It indicates with certainty merely that weapons-related work is going on, but gives no real indication of how far it has actually progressed.

As of January 1994, US analysts were themselves divided over just how close the DPRK is to actually having a bomb or bombs. Hard evidence is hard to come by. According to one White House official: "Both the CIA and the DIA are protecting themselves by openly suggesting that North Korea has already built a bomb."

According to the US State Department, there is 'no hard information' showing that the DPRK has completed bomb development work. And according to sources at the US Department of Defense: "While possession of a bomb by the DPRK is clearly a worst case, we are confident they are working on it, and the credibility of the worst case is growing over time." [NWK, Jan 6, l994pl0]

The DPRK actually signed the NPT in 1985, though it failed to fulfil its NPT obligations to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA until the 30th Jan 1992, and the agreement entered into force on April 10 '92. By that time, it would have already diverted significant quantities of plutonium.

In addition, the DPRK and the ROK bad signed agreements with each other committing each other not to develop or allow nuclear weapons on each others soil, and not to posses either enrichment or reprocessing facilities. (The DPRK refers to the Yongbyon reprocessing facility as a 'radiochemical laboratory'). The two countries agreed to establish a 'Joint Nuclear Control Commission' to police the agreement, but it has been ineffective. ['Nuclear Prospects in the Asian and Pacific Region' p10, ANSTO 1993.]

In 1992, the IAEA conducted a number of safeguards inspections that revealed that the DPRK had produced more plutonium than it was willing to admit. Therefore, in Feb 1992, the IAEA sought access to two non-declared sites at Yongbyon.

In response, the DPRK said these sites were conventional military facilities and linked the IAEA request to the 'Team Spirit' military exercises conducted by the US and the ROK. The IAEA then requested a 'special inspection' and gave the DPRK a month to respond.

The DPRK then announced on 12 March 1993 that it would withdraw from the NPT, effective as from 12 June 1993, saying that the 'special inspections' were a threat to its security. At a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in April'93, the DPRK was declared to be in breach of its obligations under the NPT. An 11th May Security Council resolution - from which China and Pakistan abstained -called on North Korea to comply with its safeguards obligations under the IAEA and the NPT. [Pacific Research, May, 1993 p7.] On 11 June 1993 -just a day before its withdrawal from the NPT would have been effective -North Korea said it would suspend that withdrawal.

Much of what has followed has been in effect a dispute over what that 'withdrawal suspended' actually means, with the DPRK arguing that it now has a special status, neither in, nor out of, the NPT/IAEA framework, and that it is no longer subject to 'normal' IAEA rules. According to Nuclear Fuel: "In essence, Pyongyang says it's out of the NPT until its in, and its western interlocutors say its in until its out." [NF, Aug 30, 1993 p12]

On 18th August '93, IAEA inspectors were permitted limited access to the nuclear facility at Yongbyon - access that allowed them only to recharge the batteries of cameras and sensing equipment. They were refused access to waste storage facilities that would have allowed them to judge just how much plutonium the DPRK had in fact separated.

By December '93, the IAEA felt that a reliable camera record of activities at Yongbyon no longer existed, and that it was therefore necessary for it to examine 40 special seals it had affixed to nuclear materials inventories and the reprocessing plant itself. The IAEA's surveillance cameras ran out of film round Dec 3 '93, when the IAEA rejected a DPRK offer of 'limited' inspection of the Yongbyon site. At a meeting of the IAEA's Board of Governors on Dec 2-3, 1993, IAEA Director General Hans Blix noted

that: "The lack of IAEA inspectors has led to a situation in which the system cannot be said at present to provide any meaningful assurance of peaceful use of the DPRK's nuclear installations and material." [NWK, Dec 23, 1993 p2]

IAEA inspectors said that continuity of knowledge about nuclear materials could only be restored if IAEA inspectors had full access to the 40 seals affixed to nuclear materials back in 1992. According to one official: "If we see that the seals are intact and have not been tampered with, we can be quite comfortable with assertions that the North Koreans have made that they have not moved any fresh or spent fuel and have frozen all reprocessing activities." [NWK, Dec 23, 1993 p2]

Inspectors were given access to the seals for a mid-year inspection only one evening between 6pm and midnight, at a time when lights were out and they needed flashlights to find the seals. Access to the seals at the 30Mw reactor and reprocessing plant was refused, though the DPRK did permit the inspectors to change batteries and films in its monitoring equipment. [NWK, Dec 25, 1993 p3]

For its part, the IAEA had wanted to do much more than inspect the seals. The IAEA told the DPRK that it wanted to do a complete verification of the physical inventory at Yongbyon, reconcile discrepancies in records, reload its cameras, count spent fuel rods, and establish a procedure to monitor the discharge of the core of the 3OMwTh reactor.

In January '94, a three-hour discussion took place between Hans Blix and a DPRK envoying which: "It was understood by both sides that the forthcoming inspection will have no legal bearing on North Korea's suspension of its NPT membership." [NWK, Jan 20, 1994 p4]. However, the IAEA's own staff were in the process of drafting a position paper emphasizing the necessity for 'periodic inspections' in the DPRK, something the DPRK itself would hardly be willing to permit.

By Feb 15th '94, the DPRK and the IAEA seemed to have agreed on inspections at 7 declared nuclear sites.

But their agreement failed to include the two waste dumps containing material that would establish the extent of DPRK reprocessing. According to an IAEA press release: "The aim of the inspection activities is to verify that nuclear material in these facilities has not been diverted since earlier inspections." [NWK, Feb 17, 1994 p17]

The agreement seems to have been designed to avoid the imposition of sanctions, coming as it did, a week before the IAEA Board could have referred the issue to the UN Security Council. However, the issue of future IAEA access to even these sites was not clear. According to an IAEA spokesperson, even as IAEA inspectors prepared to travel to Pyongyang, "Even if the IAEA gets to all seven sites this time, there is no assurance it will get access again."

By Feb 24th '94, the DPRK seemed to have agreed to the application of 'containment and surveillance' measures at the 30Mw 6CR, to 'freeze the situation until the reactor is shut down' to unload its core. [NWK, Feb 24, 1994 p3]

By the end of April '94, the situation between the IAEA and the DPRK had yet again reached an impasse. On April 20 '94, the DPRK wrote to the IAEA, requesting formally that the 40 uninspected seals on the 3OMwTh Yongbyon gas-cooled reactor be broken, so that refueling could take place. The DPRK wanted IAEA inspectors to break the seals themselves. The IAEA replied that the DPRK must consent to a series of measures for monitoring the unloading of the reactor core. According to Hans Blix: "The IAEA won't show up to be a spectator for the refueling. Even if the IAEA doesn't go, the North Koreans will have to break the safe-guards on the reactors themselves if they want to refuel"

The IAEA said in a letter of reply that, in order to verify DPRK statements that the core of the 30Mw GCR had not been unloaded since 1986, they would need to carry out random sampling and non-destructive evaluation of 10% of the reactor's 850 fuel-pins. 'Delay sampling' would also be done to find out just how long the fuel pins had actually been in the reactor core. The DPRK did not respond to this IAEA letter in reply, but later reports confirmed that they instead, simply went ahead themselves, broke the IAEA seals, and refueled their reactor. On May 20, the IAEA charged that the DPRK had violated international safeguards by going ahead and replacing the reactor core.

Changing the full reactor core was expected by the IAEA to take over two months, and according to the IAEA's UN representative Berhanykun Andemicael 'if the process is halted now, it can be put on track'. This optimism about the time and room available for maneuver was echoed by US defense secretary William Perry in Washington, according to whom, though the removal of fuel rods had commenced, "The IAEA has told us it is confident that there had been no diversion of the fuel for weapons purposes." LIPS. English on PegasusNetwork, 3.37 pm May 23, 1994]

Presumably by this the IAEA was confining its remarks to the current refueling, but this remark is nonetheless surprising in view of the DPRK's crossing of yet another line in the sand. Yet even after the breaking of the IAEA seals, both the IAEA and the US continued to see or say they saw, room for maneuver. This was to continue as the DPRK on the one hand continued to defy the IAEA and play cat and mouse with the safeguards regime, yet on the other hand never wholly broke off negotiations. Both the US, the IAEA, and indeed, the DPRK, in spite of talk of war and sanctions has actually crossed an ill-defined and shifting line that would mean the end of negotiations and a complete resort to either sanctions or military action - and that in spite of Pyongyang's statements that, for example, sanctions would be interpreted as an act of war, and on the American side, analyses of the respective military capabilities of the ROK and the DPRK.

Still, things were getting difficult. The DPRK's Ministry of Foreign Affairs angrily denied charges that fuel rods could be used for weapons purposes, saying that: "This is quite contradictory to the facts, and cannot be construed other than as a sinister intention to intensify pressure on the DPRK under the pretext of inspecting the refueling", and attributing rumors about weapons to 'some quarters in the United States'. LIPS, Op.Cit.]

Meanwhile, the IAEA's Director General Hans Blix telegraphed Pyongyang warning it to cease further removal of the fuel rods until more IAEA inspectors could be sent to verify that the rods were not being diverted to weapons production. In a letter to the UN Secretary General, the IAEA maintained that; "The discharge of the fuel without the safeguard measures requested by the JAEA constitutes a serious violation of the safeguard agreement." Even here however, there was some room for maneuver. The DPRK's own communique said that:"Since the refueling has just begun, there still remain possibilities to solve the problem".

According to IAEA spokesperson Andemicael, IAEA officials were still at Yongbyon from the previous inspection and had been 'able to assess the number of fuel rods that were removed', while the entire process was being monitored - as both IAEA and DPRK conceded - by the IAEA surveillance cameras, limiting the immediate danger of a major diversion. One must conclude therefore that more than a little posturing was taking place on the side of both the IAEA and the DPRK.

A continued willingness to talk even while extremely threatening noises were being made elsewhere continued to be evident, even though the IAEA itself was never satisfied with the DPRK's response to it. And IAEA inspectors continued to be present at the Yongbyon site in spite of the IAEA's denunciation of North Korean actions.

On May 25 '94, the IAEA and the DPRK began talks in Pyongyang 'to determine the age of spent fuel' from the Yongbyon plant. According to the IAEA, "We need to know the age of it, and we would be prepared to negotiate with the North Korean officials to perform certain measurements that are necessary to determine that fact" [IPS, 4.14 am Jun 4, 1994]

The IAEA continued to insist that it needed to 'fingerprint' some of the 580 fuel-pins to ensure that they were the same ones it would inspect later. But the DPRK steadfastly refused to let the IAEA inspectors do any more than watch the operation. The Pyongyang talks were not expected to produce any real results. While the DPRK continued to insist that the fuel in the reactor core had been there since 1986, according to the IAEA, "We have been monitoring it only since May 1992. So unless we have the measurements, we cannot say whether there has been any unreported removal of fuel in between." The IAEA also said they'd like to know exactly what happened to the seals they placed on the 30MwTh GCR. [IPS.English, 4.14 am, Jun 4, 1994]

Even on this technical level, the position has kept shifting rapidly. At the end of May '94, it was being said that the DPRK would need 6-9 months to reprocess the spent fuel from Yongbyon. [NWK, May 26, 1994 p 17] By June 9, '94 however, we were being told that fuel could be reprocessed 'immediately' due to the low levels of 1-131 in it. These low levels could of course, also indicate that the fuel has not been in the core as long as the DPRK claims it has. At a political level while this was happening, talk was increasingly of sanctions and military options, while analyses of North Korean, Chinese, Russian, and US military capabilities rolled off international computer networks. Yet all the time this was happening publicly, IAEA personnel remained at Yongbyon notwithstanding the threats by Pyongyang to withdraw from the NPT.

The situation on the ground at the reactor continued to be that the DPRK would allow IAEA inspectors a limited role, but permitted them to be present at its operations. In other words, in spite of Blix's statement that 'The IAEA won't show up to be a spectator', the IAEA was doing just that. On Jun 13, IAEA UN representative Andemicael said that there was no evidence that the DPRK's oft-stated objections to 'intrusive' IAEA inspections were having any effects on the ground. 'The inspectors are still there' he said. [IPS-2:38pm,Jun-16, i9941

There was still even confusion over the exact nature of the disputed reactor, which now started to be described as '25MwTh' and as '5Mw electric', surely a confusion with the 5 MwTh(thermal) IRT pool reactor. Remember, part of the case for DPRK weapons development had been that there were no high-tension lines coming from Yongbyon picked up by spy satellite photography. If indeed the Yongbyon GCR does generate 5Mwe, (electric) then it casts doubt on the reliability of these assessments.

Be that as it may, it was suggested by the CIA that should the DPRK reprocess the entire core of the reactor, there would be enough plutonium in it for 'five or six' weapons. [NWK, May 26, 1994 p 17] That's if the DPRK had mastered the arcane art of making a fissile core and had all the other bits of hardware in place to make it work plus some kind of delivery system... It was even suggested that on the other hand, the DPRK might actually opt not to reprocess the core at all - at least not immediately - leaving it in spent fuel pools for up to 24 months.

Officials said that in addition, work on the 50Mw GCR at Yongbyon had been slowed, while work on the 200Mwe GCR at Taechon had actually been speeded up. Remember that the 200Mwe plant is the most clearly a power reactor, so that suggests that the DPRK was not so keen to seem in a rush for a purely weapons capability. US officials suggested that Pyongyang wanted to use the GCR program as a 'bargaining chip'.

By early June '94, things looked decidedly more pessimistic if they weren't so already. The IAEA now started saying that it was no longer able to reconstruct the history of the Yongbyon reactor core, and Pyongyang was again threatening to pull out of the NPT.
Hans Blix said that: "We have not concluded that North Korea has built nuclear weapons. However, we cannot exclude that material has been diverted." LIPS, 3.2lpm, Jun 6, 1994] Blix said that only 1,800 fuel rods now remained Out of 8,000 originally in the reactor - too few to determine whether they were from the original 1986 core. He said the IAEA had now irretrievably lost the ability to determine whether weapons-related diversion had taken place in 1989.

Yet even at this stage he added that the DPRK was not actually in violation of its safeguards agreements because the DPRK continued to allow inspection of its current capabilities, saying that:
"We consider that the safeguards agreement remains in force, despite the fact that they have not complied with it in certain points."
Thus, while the US lobbied heavily for sanctions against the DPRK, the IAEA continued to keep the door open for an agreement of some kind.

By June 7, '94, the IAEA was again engaged in talks with the DPRK, this time with the objective of trying to obtain access to the two undeclared waste sites where it said crucial evidence as to the history of the DPRK nuclear fuel was to be found. [IPS, 1.49pm Jun 10, 1994]

When, a week later, the DPRK threatened to withdraw from the IAEA as well as the NPT, Berhanykun Andemicael noted that a wealth of DPRK threats had yielded few concrete actions. The IAEA still clearly wanted to talk and wring some small concessions from the DPRK. Still, things did not look good.

Nor can things have been improved by reports that because the I-131 levels in the GCR fuel were so conveniently low, and because the DPRK was willing to take risks with its nuclear workers, "Spent fuel discharged in recent days and weeks from a 2SMwTh reactor at Yongbyon in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea could be reprocessed immediately". - contradicting earlier claims that it would have to be stored for 90 days under water before it was reprocessed. By June 8th, all but 1500 of the 8,000 fuel pins in the core including the whole of a radial cross-section which the IAEA had wanted to tag and sample had been removed and placed in storage. This meant that the time 'cushion' in bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang was gone.

Also significant were observations that DPRK reactor personnel had been exposed to gamma and x-ray radiation far in excess of internationally accepted standards. IAEA inspectors had reported back in 1993 also that workers at the Yongbyon complex took exceptional risks in handling the high-level reprocessing waste declared the IAEA.

Even more alarmingly, the two IAEA inspectors present said that they intended to leave the site as soon as the reactor had been refueled. This would mean, in the absence of an on-site IAEA presence, that if the DPRK went ahead to reprocess, there would be 'no real-time detection' by the IAEA. [NWK, Jun 9, 1994 p4] The IAEA said it would 'seek to negotiate' a continued presence at the Yongbyon site. Nothing further was said about their access to the two waste dumps that they had wanted earlier.

It was therefore particularly important that when Carter visited Pyongyang on June 15, '94, he said that Kim Ii Sung had expressed willingness to allow continued IAEA inspections at Yongbyon and that the two inspectors present there could remain. In his interview with Carter, Kim Ii Sung had also insisted that the DPRK had no nuclear weapons, and said he wanted to supplant the GCR reactor program with an LWR program. [IPS Jun 19, 1994 2.Olpm, 2.02pm.]

The LWR alternative has been taken very seriously by analysts, and it is assumed that an LWR program would automatically be less proliferative than the current GCR program. However, a few caveats are there: First, it seems likely that the DPRK would not be willing to entirely scrap their 'indigenous' GCR program, though they might/possibly/maybe put it under full IAEA safeguards or 'freeze' it in some way in return for assistance with LWRs. Secondly, they may be willing to use a presumed weapons program as a 'bargaining chip' in return for LWR. Thirdly, they already, in theory, have an LWR (VVER) program in place with Russia. Finally, LWRs are just about the worst possible way for the DPRK to solve its all to real energy and electricity supply problems. Be all that as it may, Kim Ii Sung's desire for LWRs was probably real enough whatever the truth of what he said about weapons.

In the wake of the Carter visit, a little new optimism seems to have entered into the IAEA and the negotiating process, with suggestions of an 'alternative' approach to determining whether the Yongbyon core is in fact the first core loaded in 1986.

Meanwhile, the DPRK said they had conducted the refueling in a manner; "So as to preserve the technical possibility for later measurement of fuel rods on the assumption that our unique status will be removed".

"The fuel discharge operation has been carried out channel by channel, channel group by channel group in sequence, and 40 rods from one channel have been discharged into one basket. All the operations of core discharge including the identification numbers of baskets in the spent fuel pond have been kept on the accounting records and operating records, and confirmed by the JAEA inspectors every day. This shows that the refueling operation is conducted in a manner which preserves the possibility to reconstruct the channels of fuel rods, and the sequence of rods in the channel if necessary." [NWK, Jun 16, 1994 p14]

This didn't stop a US official saying that the DPRK's claims were "A smokescreen that belies the simple fact that they have prevented the IAEA from doing sampling needed to verify the inventory". [NWK, Jun 16, 1994. p14]

The IAEA itself pointed to inadequacies in the DPRK's fuel-pin records.

According to one western safeguards official, it is 'still theoretically possible' to reconstruct the irradiation history of the removed fuel, "But the keys to a satisfactory technical solution are time, money, and a degree of North Korean transparency for which there is absolutely no evidence thus far." If the IAEA could examine all the discharged fuel pins now in the pond being monitored by IAEA video cameras, the cores irradiation history, according to the IAEA, could be estimated 'within a 90-95% confidence level'. The IAEA reiterated that it was/is 'imperative' for its inspectors to remain at Yongbyon. The word from Carter and Kim Ii Sung suggests that they will indeed, remain.



An agreement between the USA and the DPRK was reached on August 13, 1994:

  • North Korea promised to stay in the NPT
  • Korea freezes its nuclear program and excepts full inspections by the IAEA
  • stop removal from the core of the remaining fuelrods
  • the US will help the DPRK to replace its graphite-rectors for light-water reactors. Washington will try to interest a international consortium for it and find the US$4 billion for it.

(Trouw NL, 15 August 1994)

As of July 8th, the DPRK and the US bad begun a new round of negotiations in which the US wanted to get the DPRK to promise not to develop nuclear weapons, while the DPRK held out for a program of $2 billion worth of development aid in compensation for closing down its nuclear activities. The Swiss newspaper 'Journal de Geneve' said talks between the two parties would be 'extensive' and that 'the only thing separating them will be a table' LIPS, 4.32pm, Jul 11, 1994].

A number of things follow from all this, complex and confusing though the story is. One is that the rulers of the DPRK - previously Kim II Sung, now Kim Jong Ii - are not irrational (though they quite capable of being bloody-minded) and should not be demonized. They do feel themselves cornered, they are not above using the most extreme threats when they feel so, but they do have a rational calculus of interests that leads away from war and most likely away from sanctions. They may be amenable to using their entire presumed weapons program as a bargaining chip if they are offered sufficiently alluring carrots, and their attitude in Geneva immediately before the death of Kim II Sung suggests they are holding out for just such carrots.

They do feel picked on, and it is certainly true that the technical measures the IAEA is demanding in respect to the discharge of the Yongbyon GCR core are not ones it would impose on say, Australia in respect of Lucas Heights. The DPRK's attitude suggests that it is willing to show them that the current GCR core will not be diverted, but that it is not willing to allow the IAEA to discover the history of that core.

The DPRK may or may not have nuclear warheads, but certainly has a program aiming to acquire them. Whether the DPRK will continue to want to acquire them at current political and economic costs is questionable: What they may decide to do is to 'freeze' the program where it is, perhaps in return for LWRs. They may feel it is in their interests to leave a degree of ambiguity about whether they do or don't have warheads, and how many.

The scale and state of advancement of whatever weapons program the DPRK have is nowhere near that of other proliferators, notably Pakistan, India, Israel, and South Africa (who now admit to having manufactured 7-8 warheads). Yet the pressure bought to bear on Pyongyang, and the demonizing of its rulers as 'nuts with nukes' was never applied, for example, to General Zia Ul Haq. One cannot help feeling that a double standard is in operation.

As for where things will go from here, it is impossible to predict. One must be skeptical of those who profess to have some kind of inside track to the thinking of the DPRK's rulers. However, one could hope that Kim Jong Ii will pursue a cautious and mildly conciliatory path in the long run in his relationship with the US, in preference to war with the ROK.

Finally, one can't but observe after 17 years in the antinuclear movement that proliferation of this kind was repeatedly warned of by opponents of uranium mining as far back as the 1976-77 Ranger Inquiry, and that the Ranger inquiry itself took these warnings very much on board. In October 1976, the Ranger Uranium Inquiry warned in its first report "The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry." [Ranger Inquiry, 1st Report Oct, 1976 p 185]

It's yet another argument for keeping (Australia's) uranium in the ground and out of the global nuclear fuel cycle.

Source and Contact: John Hallam, Friends of The Earth Sydney, POBox A474, Sydney NSW 2001, Australia. Tel:+61-2-281-4070; Fax: +61-2-281-5216.


North Korea update

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 24 1994) During the last weeks there have been some new developments on the Korean Peninsula. So following an update on the international quarrel over the inspection of the North Korean Yongbyon reactor (see also WISE NC 413.4092 & 411.4072).

(414.4108) WISE Amsterdam -Yun Ho Jin, the North Korean representative to the IAEA, has said his country would "never" allow inspections of two storage sites for nuclear waste at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. Inspection of these sites had been suggested as an alternative way of verifying that no material has been diverted for the manufacture of nuclear arms. Previously, (WISE NC 413) North Korea had already refused the IAEA supervision of the replacement of spent fuel in the experimental reactor of Yongbyon.

In reaction the IAEA has withdrawn its technical assistance to North Korea worth around US$ 270 000. North Korea, in return, said it would expel the last two UN inspectors present in the country (which has not happened yet - June 17).

On June 13th North Korea has with-drawn its membership of the IAEA. It was the first country ever to do this. It has threatened to also withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty if the US don't stop preparing sanctions against it. It has repeatedly made it known that it will consider sanctions against its nuclear program as a declaration of war.

Ex US-president Jimmy Carter went on an unofficial negotiating mission to both Koreas. Carter is, according to CNN, looking for a compromise: North Korea freezes its nuclear program for high level talks with the US. If such talks begin the US will no longer push the UN for sanctions. According to him, the sanctions are not hurting North Korea, it is the fact that sanctions outlaw the country and its leader and make them criminals. Carter achieved that the two remaining IAEA inspectors and the control equipment are allowed to stay in the country. "The crisis is over", he said, but the US administration is not yet In a draft resolution to the UN the US have proposed an arms embargo and a halt on economic, scientific and technological aid.

By not including oil exports and financial transactions in these 'moderate' sanctions they hope to gain the support of South Korea, Russia, China and Japan, who worry about possible North Korean counter measures. In order to allow more time for negotiations the US have proposed to only let the first stage of the sanctions start after a period of thirty days from the acceptance by the Security Council.

Meanwhile North Korea has warned South Korea for a relentless war if negotiations are not successful. Preparations for war have been going on in both countries for a while. convinced. It is unclear how far his initiative difference from the position of the Clinton administration; it is a private initiative of Carter who was invited personally by North Korea.


  • Trouw (NL), 2 to 17 June, 1994
  • CNN, 19 June 1994

Row over North Korea refuelling Yongbuyon reactor

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 3, 1994) An international quarrel has developed around the replacement of spent fuel in the 5 megawatt experimental reactor in Yonghyon, North Korea.

(413.4092) WISE Amsterdam - A Foreign Ministry's spokesman confirmed that the process had started without IAEA presence. Allegedly, the IAEA was not notified and wants to make various tests at the reactor and supervise the refueling as stated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Agency also wants to collect samples of spent nuclear fuel to assess whether North Korea has diverted material for use in a suspected nuclear weapons development program.

Determining the age of the rods would enable verification of North Korean claims that none has been removed from the reactor since they were first inserted in 1986, despite the suspicion that centers around a mysterious shutdown in 1989. Kim Dai-ho, a former official at a North Korean reprocessing plant who defected to South Korea on May 7, charged North Korea of secretly extracting 12 kg (26.4 lb) of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel despite its public denials. 'If you have 12 kg of plutonium, you can make two nuclear bombs," said Kim in the Tokyo daily of May 23.

NATO defense ministers, meeting in Brussels, discussed the threat posed by the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons. In a statement issued after the meeting, NATO said North Korea's attitude "and its history of exporting ballistic missiles and weapons technology to regions of instability pose a grave risk to peace and stability in the Far East and globally."

Through the (North) Korean Central News Agency, a spokesman of the Pyongyang Institute of Disarmament and Peace accused the United States of continuously promoting the modernization of its own nuclear weapons and turning a blind eye on the nuclear capability of its allies, while casting doubt on nuclear activity in other countries and even calling for 'sanctions' against them. He stated that the U.S. has attempted to trample on the sovereignty of small countries by employing a double standard on the nuclear issue.

South Korean, U.S. and Japanese officials have threatened North Korea to request the UN Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Pyongyang agreed to hold talks with the IAEA only after an official message of China, asking North Korea to allow the IAEA to observe the process, according to a high-rank diplomatic source in Beijing. The talks started in Pyongyang on May 25 and failed a few days later. According to Dutch TV news-report the IAEA was not allowed to observe the refueling and left North Korea after that. The refueling restarted. The UN General Assembly demanded North Korea to fully co-operate with the IAEA, but so far no economic sanctions are imposed. But it is likely that the US and Japan will asked for them in the near future.


  • Trouw (NL), 25 May 1994
  • Reuter, several items Greenbase, 14, 19, 24, 25 May 1994
  • Dutch TV- News, 28 May 1994
  • Dutch Radio News, 31 May 1994

Accident and metallic plutonium in N.Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 24, 1993)  North Korea refused in mid-August to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect two waste storage facilities believed to hold the key to information about how much plutonium has been separated.

(398.3883) WISE Amsterdam - The IAEA suspects that the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name of North Korea) has failed to declare a significant portion of its plutonium inventory, and may even have converted some plutonium to metallic form.

It is believed that converted plutonium nitrate separated since 1988 has been converted to pure metallic plutonium in a facility at or near the Yongbyong nuclear complex. If so, this conversion could be reasonably explained only by an intention to develop nuclear weapons. According to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, any effort by the DPRK to build nuclear weapons would not be tolerated by Washington. The IAEA inspectorate is planning to present a report on safeguard inspections at North Korea to the Board of Governors at their meeting on 21 September.

North Korea signed the NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) in 1985 but delayed in negotiating a safeguards agreement and declaring its nuclear facilities. The IAEA has not yet been able to apply full safeguards at Yongbyong. The DPRK notified its withdrawal from the NPT on 12 March, but suspended the effectiveness of that withdrawal on 11 June -one day before it would have taken effect. The refusal to allow inspection at the two facilities appears to be (under Western legal interpretation) a violation of its obligations, since it is still a member of the NPT, having suspended its withdrawal. But the DPRK is taking an opposite interpretation, saying they in fact left the treaty but suspended the effectiveness of that step only to permit talks with the US. Pyongyang says its out of the NPT until it's in, and the West says the country is in until it's out.

Meanwhile, a high ranking North Korean army official who defected to South Korea claims that there has been a dangerous nuclear accident in the DPRK. Although the press reports on his testimony are very vague and brief, it seems that in trying to prevent an inspection by the IAEA at a secret nuclear facility at Pyongyang by removing (!?) it, hundreds of people died. The period in which the accident was said to have happened is unknown (in any case, not published in reports we saw). The defecter, Im Young Sun, said other army officials were present at Pyongyang at the time and told him about it.


  • Nucleonics Week (US), 2 July 1993
  • Nuclear Fuel (US), 30 Aug. 1993
  • Die Tageszeitung (FRG), 25 Aug. 1993