Nyongbyon reactor restarted

7 March 2003

The reactor was shut down under the 1994 Framework Agreement between North Korea and the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO). Restarting the reactor does not present an immediate security threat. More serious, according to Washington, would be if North Korea activated its Nyongbyon processing facility that could produce weapons-grade plutonium from 8000 fuel rods that have been in storage since 1994. Recent reports published by Reuters said that diplomatic sources "with close ties to Pyongyang" confirmed that it was only a matter of time before the reprocessing plant is reactivated.

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referred North Korea's "non-compliance" to the UN Security Council. Only two members - Russia and Cuba - of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors refused to support the decision to refer the matter to the Security Council. IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said his "repeated efforts to engage" North Korea had been in vain.

Meanwhile, work is still underway on the KEDO project's two PWRs. The US State Department has not earmarked funds for the administration costs of KEDO in its Fiscal Year 2004 budget plan, which begins on 1 October.



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