The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) has given the North Korean government detailed project schedule documents specifying that unless Pyongyang permits the IAEA to begin verification of its declared nuclear material inventory this year, the anticipated delivery to North Korea of heavy equipment for the first of the two 1000MWe PWRs will be delayed past 2005. That delay would jeopardise the completion date of 2008 for the first unit.

The documents were given to North Korea during an expert-level meeting which had been scheduled for March, but which North Korea delayed in reaction to statements by US president George Bush describing North Korea as part of an evil axis. When the meeting was finally held, KEDO presented North Korea with the project dossier. It contained a detailed project schedule set up by Kepco, based on contracts Kepco has signed with suppliers for most of the components and systems needed for the two PWRs.

Last year, the IAEA formally told North Korea that it had set two priorities to bring North Korea into compliance with its bilateral safeguards agreement: putting an isotope production laboratory under seal, and beginning the reconstruction of the irradiation history of North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactor at Yongbyon.

Under the 1994 Agreed Framework setting up the KEDO project, North Korea must comply with IAEA safeguards before significant nuclear equipment may be shipped there for the project.

The project documents given to North Korea contained a timetable. Tasks were outlined which were to be performed by KEDO and by North Korea. One official involved in the meeting said that, because the IAEA expects it will need at least three years to verify the inventory, the schedule documents “made very clear to the North Koreans that if they don’t start seriously cooperating with the IAEA right now, delivery of equipment will be delayed past 2005.” At the site, ground clearing work and some civil construction continues, despite a nearly two-year strike by North Korean workers, demanding an increase in their wage levels. Last year, KEDO hired replacement workers under a one-year agreement with the government of Uzbekistan. That agreement will soon expire, but will probably be extended for another year.

In late March, a breakwater inlet was completed at the site, allowing vessels from South Korea to dock there instead of at the port of Yongwan, about 12km away. The project schedule says that Kepco is expecting to pour first concrete for the first unit in August.