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How Britain helped the North Korean nuclear weapons program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
David Lowry

The news that North Korea has successfully tested its first hydrogen nuclear warhead (an assertion which has been seriously questioned by nuclear weapons experts) has set the media and politicians running pronouncing concerns over the impact on global security.

What hasn't been discussed is how British nuclear designs have been purloined by the North Koreans to build production plants for their nuclear explosives. There is significant evidence that the British Magnox nuclear plant design – which was primarily built as a military plutonium production factory – provided the blueprint for the North Korean military plutonium program based in Yongbyon.

Here is what Douglas (now Lord) Hogg, then a Conservative minister, admitted in a written parliamentary reply in 1994: "We do not know whether North Korea has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. North Korea possesses a graphite moderated reactor which, while much smaller, has generic similarities to the reactors operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc. However, design information of these British reactors is not classified and has appeared in technical journals."1

The uranium enrichment programs of both North Korea and Iran also have a UK connection. The blueprints of this type of plant were stolen by Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan, from the URENCO enrichment plant in The Netherlands in the early 1970s.2 This plant was – and remains – one-third owned by the UK government. The Pakistan government subsequently sold the technology to Iran, who later exchanged it for North Korean Nodong missiles.

A technical delegation from the A.Q. Khan Research Labs visited North Korea in 1996. The secret enrichment plant was said to be based in caves near Kumch'ang-ni, 100 miles north of the capital, Pyonyang, where U.S. satellite photos showed tunnel entrances being built. Hwang Jang-yop, a former aid to President Kim Il-sung (the grandfather of the current North Korean President) who defected in 1997, revealed details to Western intelligence investigators.3

Magnox machinations

Magnox is a now obsolete type of nuclear power plant (except in North Korea) which was designed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in the early 1950s, and was exported to Italy and Japan. The name magnox comes from the alloy used to clad the fuel rods inside the reactor.

The plutonium production reactors at Calder Hall on the Sellafield site – then called Windscale, operated by the UKAEA – were opened by the young Queen Elizabeth in 1956. But it was never meant as a commercial civilian nuclear plant: the UKAEA official historian Kenneth Jay wrote about Calder Hall, in his short book of the same name, published to coincide with the opening of the plant. He referred to "major plants built for military purposes, such as Calder Hall." Earlier, he wrote: "The plant has been designed as a dual-purpose plant, to produce plutonium for military purposes as well as electric power."

The term magnox also encompasses three North Korean reactors, all based on the open access blueprints of the Calder Hall Magnox reactors, including:

  • A small 5 MWe experimental reactor at Yongbyon4, operated from 1986 to 1994, and restarted in 2003. Plutonium from this reactor's spent fuel has been used in the North Korea nuclear weapons program.
  • A 50 MWe reactor, also at Yongbyon, whose construction commenced in 1985 but was never finished in accord with the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework.5
  • A 200 MWe reactor at Taechon, construction of which also halted in 1994.

Why enrich the people when you can enrich uranium?

Olli Heinonen6, senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in the US, has explained how North Korea obtained its uranium enrichment capability:7

"The pre-eminence of Juche, the political thesis of Kim Il Sung, stresses independence from great powers, a strong military posture, and reliance on national resources. Faced with an impoverished economy, political isolation from the world, and rich uranium deposits, nuclear power – both civilian as well as military – fulfils all three purposes.

"History and hindsight have shown a consistency in North Korea's efforts to develop its own nuclear capability. One of the first steps North Korea took was to assemble a strong national cadre of nuclear technicians and scientists. In 1955, North Korea established its Atomic Energy Research Institute. In 1959, it signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to train North Korean personnel in nuclear related disciplines. The Soviets also helped the North Koreans establish a nuclear research center and built a 2 MW IRT nuclear research reactor at Yongbyon, which began operation in 1969.

"Throughout the 1970s, North Korea continued to develop its nuclear capabilities, pursuing a dual track approach that was consistent with the idea of nuclear self-reliance. While engaging in discussions to obtain Light Water Reactors (LWRs) from the Soviet Union, North Korea proceeded with parallel studies on graphite moderated gas cooled reactors, using publicly available information based on the Magnox reactor design.

"North Korea also carried out plutonium separation experiments at its Isotope Production Laboratory (IPL), and successfully separated plutonium in the same decade. The North Koreans worked on the design of a reprocessing plant for which, the chemical process was modeled after the Eurochemic plant. Eurochemic was a research plant dedicated to the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. It was owned by thirteen countries which shared and widely published technologies developed. The plant, located in Dessel, Belgium, operated from 1966 to 1974.

"When negotiations to acquire four LWRs from the Soviet Union failed, North Korea had already embarked on its indigenous nuclear program. Throughout the 1980s, North Korea constructed a 5MWe reactor, fuel fabrication plant, and a reprocessing plant at Yongbyon, with no known documented external help and with minimal foreign equipment procured. When the joint statement on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was concluded in December 1991, all three facilities had been fully operational for a number of years, with two additional (50 MWe and 200 MWe) graphite moderated gas cooled reactors under construction.

"North Korea's closed society and isolationist position has made it immensely difficult to accurately gauge its nuclear activities. Pyongyang has gone to great lengths to hide much of its nuclear program, including its enrichment route. Nevertheless, there have been indications, including procurement related evidence, that point in the direction that North Korea has been actively pursuing enrichment since the mid-1990s, with likely exploratory attempts made up to a decade earlier.

"It is clear that North Korea received a key boost in its uranium enrichment capability from Pakistan through the A.Q. Khan network. Deliveries of P-1 and P-2 centrifuges, special oils, and other equipment from Pakistan to North Korea in the late 1990s were acknowledged by former Pakistani President General P. Musharraf in his memoirs, "In the Line of Fire." President Musharraf also wrote that, separately, North Korean engineers were provided training at A.Q. Khan's Research Laboratories in Kahuta under the auspices of a government-to-government deal on missile technology that had been established in 1994. In all likelihood, North Korea also received the blue prints for centrifuges and other related process equipment from the Khan network during that period of time.

"In the late 1980s, North Korea acquired vacuum equipment from a German company. While such equipment was primarily meant for North Korea's fuel fabrication plant then under construction, some of the vacuum pumps could have been used for enrichment experiments. But additional attempts made in 2002 to again acquire vacuum technology after the completion of the fuel fabrication plant strongly pointed to its use for enrichment purposes. Evidence of North Korea's procurement activities in the late 1990s to the early 2000s showed its objective to achieve industrial or semi-industrial scale enrichment capacity, based on a more efficient Pakistani P-2 centrifuge design. In 1997, an attempt was made to acquire large amounts of maraging steel suitable for manufacturing centrifuges. In 2002/2003, North Korea successfully procured large quantities of high strength aluminum from Russia and the United Kingdom, another requirement in making centrifuges. A simple tally of the amounts and types of equipment and material sought by North Korea suggests plans to develop a 5000-centrifuge strong enrichment capacity. This appears consistent with a separate earlier enrichment offer A. Q. Khan had made to Libya.

"For North Korea to have embarked on procuring equipment and materials meant for a (semi)industrial scale enrichment facility, it is highly likely that the known Uranium Enrichment Workshop (UEW) at Yongbyon, which in reality approximates a full sized facility, is not the only one that exists. More workshops would have been needed to serve as test beds for pilot cascades of P-1 and P-2 centrifuges prior to (semi)industrial scale enrichment operations. While we have signs of North Korea's enrichment goals, the final picture remains unclear given that the actual amount of items procured remains unknown. This problem is compounded by the fact that the North Koreans have and are continuing to source nuclear material and equipment from several parties. Moreover, there remains a high degree of uncertainty concerning the level of North Korea's enrichment technology development.

"In April 2009, after expelling IAEA inspectors, North Korea publicly announced for the first time that it was proceeding with its own enrichment program. To reinforce its intentions, North Korea followed up with a letter to the UN Security Council on September 3 to confirm that it was embarking on an enrichment phase. In November 2010, the North Koreans unveiled to Siegfried Hecker, a pre-eminent nuclear expert and former director of the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, an enrichment facility in Yongbyon with 2000 centrifuge machines similar to the P-2 version, built with maraging steel rotors. The scale, level of sophistication, and brazenness for the North Koreans to have built a (until then) secret enrichment facility at the same site of a previously IAEA-monitored building, caught international attention. The plant is proof of North Korea's steady pursuit to include uranium enrichment as part of its domestic nuclear fuel cycle. ...

"On March 22, 2011, North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, portrayed Libya's decision to give up its nuclear weapons as a mistake that opened the country to NATO intervention following its domestic Arab Spring uprising. Such conclusions drawn by North Korea make an already difficult case to engage North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon deterrence that much harder. At the same time, the alternative of disengagement will in all likelihood bring about greater problems.

"In engaging North Korea, several key hurdles have to be tackled. First, North Korea shows a poor proliferation record. It was the suspected supply source of UF6 to Libya via the A.Q. Khan network. There is also mounting evidence that North Korea was involved in the construction of a secret nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour in Syria that was subsequently destroyed in 2007. It is plausible that North Korean personnel assisted Syria in building the reactor."

Reprinted from


1. Douglas Hogg, written parliamentary reply to Labour MP Llew Smith, Hansard, 25 May 1994,

2. David Albright, Peddling Peril, 2010, pp 15-28, Free Press, New York.

3. Levy A, Scott-Clark C, 'Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Global Weapons Conspiracy', 2007, p.281, Atlantic Books.




7. Olli Heinonen, 'North Korea's Nuclear Enrichment: Capabilities and Consequences', 22 June 2011,

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

One year Fukushima: people demand end to nuclear power!
In the weekend of 10-11 March, one year after Fukushima, hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to demonstrate against nuclear power. In Japan, many thousands demanded the abolition of nuclear power; 16,000 in Fukushima, 14,000 in Tokyo and 15,000 in Osaka were the largest demonstrations. In Germany a total of 50,000 people took part in 6 demonstrations; in the UK the largest antinuclear action in over three decades took place near Hinkley Point, where 1,000 people surrounded the nuclear power station and blocked it for 24-hours. In Switzerland 8,000 people demanded the immediate closure of nuclear power plants. In Hong Kong (China), Taipeh (Taiwan), Seoul (South Korea) and many places in North and South America, demonstrations or other actions were held too.

By far the largest demonstration was right in the 'heart of the nuclear beast': in France. Demonstrators in the Rhone valley formed a human chain that stretched for 230 kilometers between Lyon and Avignon. About 60,000 people participated. This is an enormous succes and one of the largest antinuclear demonstrations ever in France. This highlights a shift in public opinion and in a few weeks time presidential elections will be held with one of the two main candidates sceptical about the future importance of nuclear power in France.

The Rhone valley has Europe's highest concentration of nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities. France's 58 nuclear reactors generate about 75 percent of the country's electricity, making it the world's most nuclear-dependent nation.

Mühleberg: Time to go.
One of the world's oldest nuclear power plants in operation is Mühleberg in the Swiss canton of Bern. A boiling water reactor bought from General Electric and first put into operation in 1972, Mühleberg is aimed at by the Swiss antinuclear movement because of cracks in the vessel around the heart of the reactor. The Würgassen NPP in Germany and Millstone I in the USA were shut down because of the same problem. So when the Swiss Federal Department of Energy gave an unlimited operating license to the Mühlebergs' legal owners (BKW) in 2009, this was seen as a provocation. Neighbors of Mühleberg gathered to attack the decision in court. The city of Geneva, historically antinuclear, as well as other smaller towns gave in all 120,000 fr (100,000 euros) to finance the cost of the appeal. And finally, on March 8, the Federal  Administrative Tribunal released its decision: BKW must shut down Mühleberg by end of June 2013, unless a plan to fix the numerous faults is presented and accepted. Previously, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Institute released a guarantee stating Mühleberg posed no security threat. The courts' decisions gives a strong blow to this Institute, regularly criticized for its partiality in favor of the nuclear industry. After being at first very surprised by this decision, one can with hindsight acknowledge that the federal court simply took a fresh new look at nuclear safety, new since Fukushima: In Japan too, security authorities told the government that Fukushima Daiichi would resist foreseeable major natural catastrophes...

Five days after the judgment, 8000 demonstrators gathered in front of the old power plant of Muhleberg. BKW has until April 8 to decide whether they will attack the decision in the countries' highest court.

(Update: On March 14, BKW appealed the court ruling on Mühleberg)
Philippe de Rougemont, Sortir du nucléaire Suisse romande, 14 March 2012

DPRK: agreement on suspension of enrichment.
North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities. In return, the US has agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with the proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance "along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance."

This was announced on February 29, after the U.S. delegation returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks.
Press statement, US Department of State, 29 February 2012.

The mysterious flash near South Africa in 1979.
A new paper written by Leonard Weiss, reviews the history of the September 22, 1979 double flash recorded by the VELA satellite and concludes that the flash was an Israeli nuclear test assisted by South Africa. The paper also relates a personal experience of the author in 1981 while working in the U.S. Senate that reinforces the conclusion. The paper calls for the declassification and release of documents that could remove any lingering uncertainty regarding the event. One of the likely reasons that the U.S. government is withholding the declassification of relevant documents is to assist Israel to maintain its policy of opacity in nuclear affairs, a policy which had its origin in a bargain made with the U.S. during the Nixon presidency, and whose abandonment accompanied by the admission that Israel violated the Limited Test Ban Treaty would create some uncomfortable political fallout for both countries. It is hard to argue that helping Israel in this way contributes to U.S. national security at a time when the U.S. demands openness in the nuclear activities of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and all other countries who may be engaged in clandestine weapon-related nuclear activities.

The Iraq war has shown the harm that can result from the politicization of intelligence in order to support a desired policy outcome whose support by the public would otherwise be problematic. In the case of the VELA event, U.S. administrations on both sides of the political fence have sought to ignore or demote the value of legitimately collected and analysed intelligence information in order to reduce or eliminate pressure to take an action with unpredictable or negative political repercussions. Obfuscating or denigrating hard intelligence data in order to avoid a political problem can be as dangerous to national security and democracy as inventing bogus intelligence in order to smooth the way into a war.

The paper 'Israel’s 1979 Nuclear Test and the U.S. Government’s Attempt to Cover It Up', is available at:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

India: nuclear lobbyist heads national solar company.
India's prime minister has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission to be in charge of the national solar mission. The Solar Energy Corporation of India was recently set up as a not-for-profit company and will work under the administrative control of the New and Renewable Energy Ministry (NREM).  The move to appoint Kakodkar will likely create somewhat of a controversy, as India Today points out, calling the decision "a bizarre move that smacks of unfair public policymaking," and a "clear case of conflict of interest." His appointment as head of the solar mission is bound to upset anti-nuclear activists in the country who want the government to actively promote alternatives such as solar and wind while giving up investments in nuclear energy.

Ignoring this contribution of renewable sources of energy, Kakodkar has constantly projected nuclear energy as the "inevitable and indispensable option" that addresses both sustainability as well as climate change issues. But despite huge investments during the past half a century, nuclear power contributes just a fraction of India's energy needs. The total installed capacity of nuclear power in the country is 4,780 MW, while the total installed capacity of renewable sources of energy is 20,162 MW, according to data collected by the Central Electricity Authority.

In his new role, Kakodkar will be responsible for turning around the fortunes of the government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). The Solar Energy Corporation of India has been created to act as its executing arm. Although still in its infancy, its organization has already come under fire from both developers and politicians. In the first days of 2012 the findings of a Parliamentary panel were released, labeling the Ministry’s approach to the national solar mission as “disappointing” and “lackadaisical”. This research followed on from disappointing end-of-year installation figures, which saw just 400MW of the 1.2GW of installations forecasted by the government achieve grid connection.
India Today, 6 January 2012  / PV Tech, 6 January 2012

Netherlands: Borssele 2 delayed; EDF no longer interested.
Delta, the regional utility wanting to build a nuclear reactor at Borssele, delayed its decision about investing 110 million in a new license by at least half a year. Furthermore they announced that Delta will no longer be the leading company in the project. Although it is hard to find out what that exactly means, it is clear that Delta will not have a majority stake in the reactor if the project continues. Many people expect this is the end of the project. However, in a press statement Delta is repeating its commitment towards nuclear energy.

Another surprising outcome was that the French state utility EDF (which signed a Memorandum of Understanding about investigating the possibilities for a new reactor in the Netherlands with Delta in 2010) is not longer involved in the project. Delta CEO Boerma, a passionate but clumsy nuclear advocate, left the company, but that cannot be seen as the end of the nuclear interest in nuclear power, either. It is a sacrifice to reassure the shareholders he offended several times in the last months.

German RWE (via the Dutch subsidiary ERH Essent) is another interested partner for a new reactor at Borssele. ERH is in the process to obtain a licence and has the same decision to make as Delta to invest 110 million euro in obtaining a license. If RWE is still interested at all, it is more likely they will cooperate with a large share in the Delta project.

Public support in Zeeland for a new reactor is plummeting according to several polls early December. This is another nail in the coffin, because Delta is very keen to point out there is almost a unanimously positive feeling in the Zeeland province about the second nuclear power plant.

If Delta can not present solid partners for the project at the next stakeholders meeting planned in June 2012, those stakeholders will decide to pull the plug. 
Laka Foundation, 11 January 2012

US: Large area around the Grand Canyon protected from mining.
On January 9, 2012, after more than 2 years of environmental analysis and receiving many thousands of public comments from the American people, environmental and conservation groups, the outdoor recreation industry, mayors and tribal leaders, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew more than 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land around the canyon from new mining claims for the next twenty years -the longest period possible under the law.

In the months immediately leading up to this landmark decision, many environmental organizations worked with conservation advocates and outdoors enthusiasts around the country to urge the Administration to halt toxic uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Interior Secretary Salazar received comments from nearly 300,000 citizens urging him to withdraw one million acres of land from new mining claims.

The decision however would allow a small number of existing uranium and other hard rock mining operations in the region to continue while barring the new claims. In 2009 Mr. Salazar suspended new uranium claims on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon for two years, overturning a Bush administration policy that encouraged thousands of new claims when the price of uranium soared in 2006 and 2007. Many of the stakeholders are foreign interests, including Rosatom, Russia's state atomic energy corporation.

The landscape is not the only thing at stake. Uranium mining in western states has an abysmal track-record. In Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, uranium mining has had undeniable health impacts on miners and nearby residents, including cancer, anemia and birth defects. Even the Grand Canyon itself bears the scars of uranium mining. Radioactive waste has poisoned streams and soil in and around the canyon, while abandoned and active mines are scars on the Arizona landscape. Soil levels around the abandoned Orphan Mine inside Grand Canyon National Park are 450 times more than normal levels, and visitors to the park are warned not to drink from Horn Creek. The closest mine currently in operation, Arizona 1, is less than 2 miles from the canyon’s rim. “Mining so close to the Grand Canyon could contaminate the Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, and put the drinking water for 25 million Americans at risk,” added Pyne. “Uranium mining has already left a toxic legacy across the West -every uranium mine ever opened has required some degree of toxic waste clean-up- it certainly doesn’t belong near the Grand Canyon.”
Environment America, 9 January 2012 / New York Times, 6 January 2012

Finland, Olkiluoto 3.
August 2014 is the date that Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) expects to see power flow from its new reactor, Olkiluoto 3, according to a single-line statement issued on 21 December. The announcement brought a little more clarity to the unit's schedule compared with TVO's last announcement, which specified only the year 2014. The Finnish utility said it had been informed by the Areva-Siemens consortium building the unit that August 2014 was scheduled for commercial operation.

Construction started in May 2005. A few days after the October announcement that Olkiluoto cannot achieve grid-connection before 2014 the French daily was citing a report stating that the costs for Areva are expected to 6.6 billion euro (then US$ 9.1 billion). The price mentioned (and decided on) in Finnish Parliament was 2.5 billion euro, the initial contract for Olkiluoto 3 was 3 billion euro.
World Nuclear News, 21 December 2011 / Nuclear Monitor 735, 21 October 2012

France: 13 billion euro to upgrade safety of nuclear reactors.
In response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, French nuclear safety regulator ASN has released a 524-page report on the state of nuclear reactors in France. The report says that government-controlled power provider Electricité de France SA (EDF) needs to make significant upgrades “as soon as possible” to its 58 reactors in order to protect them from potential natural disasters. The ASN gave reactor operators until June 30 to deliver proposals meeting the enhanced security standards of sites they run. Costs for the upgrades are estimated at 10 billion euros (US$13.5 billion); previously planned upgrades to extend the life of the nation’s reactors from 40 to 60 years are now expected to cost as much as 50 billion euros. Modifications include building flood-proof diesel pumps to cool reactors, creating bunkered control rooms, and establishing an emergency task force that can respond to nuclear disasters within 24 hours. Andre Claude Lacoste, the Chairman of ASN, said, “We are not asking the operator to make these investments. We are telling them to do so.” French Energy Minister Eric Besson plans to meet with EDF and reactor maker Areva, as well as CEA, the government-funded technological research organization, on January 9 to discuss implementation of ASN’s recommendations. Seventy-five percent of France’s energy comes from nuclear power, more than that of any other country. Experts say that the cost of nuclear power in France will almost certainly rise as a result of the required upgrades. EDF shares are down as much as 43 percent in the last 12 months.
Greenpeace blog, 6 January 2012 / Bloomberg, 4 January 2012

Nuclear's bad image? James Bond's Dr. No is to blame!
James Bond movies are to blame for a negative public attitude to nuclear power, according to a leading scientist. Professor David Phillips, president of the Royal Society Of Chemistry, reckons that supervillains such as Dr No, the evil genius with his own nuclear reactor, has helped create a "remorselessly grim" perception of atomic energy. Speaking ahead of Bond's 50th anniversary celebrations, Phillips said he hopes to create a "renaissance" in nuclear power. In the first Bond film of the same name, Dr No is eventually defeated by Sean Connery's 007 who throws him into a cooling pool in the reactor. And Phillips claims that this set a precedent for nuclear power being sees as a "barely controllable force for evil", according to BBC News, since later villains hatched similar nuclear plots.
NME, 12 January 2012

North Korea: halting enrichment for food?
On January 11, North Korea suggested it was open to halting its enrichment of uranium in return for concessions that are likely to include food assistance from the United States, the Washington Post reported. A statement said to be from a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the Obama administration to "build confidence" by including a greater amount of food in a bilateral agreement reportedly struck late last year shortly before the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Washington halted food assistance to the North after the regime carried out what was widely seen as a test of its long-range ballistic missile technology in spring 2009.

While rebuking the United States for connecting food assistance to security concerns, the statement was less bombastic than the proclamations that are typically issued by the Stalinist state. The statement marked the first time Pyongyang made a public pronouncement about the rumored talks with Washington on a deal for food assistance in exchange for some nuclear disarmament steps. Washington has demanded that Pyongyang halt uranium enrichment efforts unveiled in 2010 as one condition to the resumption of broader North Korean denuclearization negotiations that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea (the socalled six-party talks).

The Obama administration has been exceedingly wary about agreeing to any concessions with Pyongyang, which has a long track record of agreeing to nuclear disarmament actions in return for foreign assistance only to reverse course once it has attained certain benefits.
Global Security Newswire, 11 January 2012

Support for nuclear is not 100% any more in CR and SR.
Both Czech and Slovak Republic until recently announced intentions of keeping nuclear power and even increasing capacity by constructing new nuclear power plants – more the less for export.  However, Fukushima and “nearby” Germany´s phase-out caused doubts.  Mr. Janiš, the Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Slovak Parliament said today: “I have not seen an objective study on the benefits of constructing a new nuclear power plant in Jaslovské Bohunice,” said Mr. Janiš. According to him it would be a wrong decision to make Slovakia into a nuclear superpower, when e.g. Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their plants. Mr. Janiš thinks that biomass and sun are the future. Contrary to him, the minister of economy Mr. Juraj Miškov still believes that the fifth unit in Jaslovské Bohunice has a future; the feasibility study will be ready by mid 2012. He is convinced that due to the phase-out in some countries, the electricity demand will increase and Slovakia might become an even more important electricity exporting country than until now.

This comes only days after the Czech Republic announced to downsize the Temelin tender from 5 to 2 reactors thereby losing the possibility to negotiate a 30% lower price. Also here a major question is: will Austria and Germany be interested in importing nuclear power?, 10 January 2012

Russia: 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites.
There are nearly 25,000 hazardous underwater objects containing solid radioactive waste in Russia, an emergencies ministry official said on December 26. The ministry has compiled a register of so-called sea hazards, including underwater objects in the Baltic, Barents, White, Kara, and Black Seas as well as the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. These underwater objects include nuclear submarines that have sunk and ships with ammunition and oil products, chemicals and radioactive waste. Hazardous sites with solid radioactive waste sit on the sea bed mainly at a depth of 500 meters, Oleg Kuznetsov, deputy head of special projects at the ministry’s rescue service, said. Especially dangerous are reactor holds of nuclear submarines off the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and a radio-isotope power units sunk near Sakhalin Island, he added.
RIA Novosti, 26 December 2011

KEDO demands compensation for reactors from North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

KEDO, an international consortium tasked to build two light-water reactors in North Korea earlier this decade will soon demand the Stalinist state hand over US$1.89 billion (1.4 billion euro) to compensate for losses incurred by the failed project. KEDO agreed in 1994 to build two 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors as part of a denuclearization-for-aid deal and the  project was about 35 percent complete when cancelled.

The demand by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) is the latest in a back-and-forth debate over the project once considered a sign of progress toward the North's denuclearization. It comes after North Korea filed its own compensation claim worth some US$5.8 billion in September, saying it suffered heavy financial losses and other troubles from the failed project.

KEDO, comprised of South Korea, Japan and the United States, agreed in 1994 to build two 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors in the North as part of a denuclearization-for-aid deal between Washington and Pyongyang. After years of delays due to poor funding and other problems, the project fell through in 2006 after the U.S. caught North Korea pushing a second nuclear weapons program based on enriched uranium in addition to its widely known plutonium-based one. The US$4.2 billion project was about 35 percent complete when the KEDO called it off.

A government official said on condition of anonymity that KEDO has sent a letter to the North each year requesting it to pay for the losses incurred by its breach of the agreement. "North Korea has given no response, and its sudden claim for compensation is completely unacceptable." The wrangling also comes as part of increased regional dialogue as players try to resume long-stalled multilateral talks on Pyongyang's denuclearization. Those
'Six-Party Talks' between North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States began in 2003 with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

The North walked out of the six-party talks in April 2009 over international sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests. Last year, it upped the ante for their resumption by revealing the uranium program and twice waging deadly attacks on the South. Tensions have cooled somewhat since July, when the two Koreas sat down for surprise denuclearization talks that led to similar meetings between Washington and Pyongyang that aimed to resume the multilateral format.

Seoul and Washington want the North to halt the uranium program and allow for international verification of the move among other steps before coming back to the table, while Pyongyang insists the talks should start without preconditions.

Domestic Light-water reactor
Meanwhile, North Korea has made rapid progress on the construction of its new nuclear reactor, with work nearly complete on the building's outside walls, an analysis of recent satellite images shows. The 25 or 30-megawatt light-water nuclear reactor has been constructed with no apparent outside help and no international oversight. The reactor is part of a recent North Korean plan to revamp its nuclear capabilities.

Outside analysts weren’t sure whether isolated and impoverished North Korea had such a capability, even though it had received important Pakistani technology and manuals in the 1990s. That skepticism disappeared last November when a U.S. scientist was given a tour of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. The scientist, former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Siegfried Hecker, was shown a modern uranium-enrichment facility with 2,000 centrifuges — enough to produce fuel for a modest light-water reactor. North Korea also would have to produce uranium dioxide fuel pellets to power the reactor. When Hecker toured the facility last year, he was told that the uranium-enrichment facility was operational, but he didn’t see it in use.

Hecker also saw the beginnings of North Korea’s light-water reactor. At the time, the reactor was just a 23-foot hole in the ground and a concrete foundation. Hecker spotted 50 workers in blue coveralls and a sign that read, “Safety first — not one accident can occur!”

Because the reactor building is yet to be loaded with sensitive nuclear equipment, the plant might not be operational for another two or three years, one analyst said. But the accelerated pace of construction lends credence to Pyongyang's claim that it has the materials and know-how to build nuclear plants on its own.

There is concern about how North Korea would reliably cool the reactor core; newly laid piping connects to a nearby river that freezes in winter. And it is less clear whether North Korea wants the plant as a power source or as a decoy for its weapons program.

North Korea is trying to build up its infrastructure — improving its factories, its electrical grid and its supply of hard currency — in advance of 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung. North Korea has touted 2012 as a showpiece year for its achievements, and officials told Hecker that the light-water reactor would be finished in time for the anniversary.

Sources: Korean Times, 14 November 2011 / Yonhap News Agency, 14 Nov, / Washington Post, 15 November 2011


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Centrifuge crash report allegedly delayed until after financing deadline. SONG (the Southern Ohio Neighbors Group) disclosed on July 6 that a power outage and centrifuge crash happened at USEC's project site near Piketon, Ohio. As reported in that newsrelease, Osiris Siurano, the NRC project manager for USEC's centrifuge project license, told SONG in an interview on July 5 that USEC had notified NRC and DOE "within 24-hours as required." According to NRC's "Event Notification Report" of that day, July 5, however, NRC was not actually notified of the situation until July 1.

July 1 just happened to be one day after USEC's original financing deadline of June 30, by which time USEC needed to secure a "conditional commitment" for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. That is, there is now evidence that USEC waited nineteen days before reporting a serious safety incident to NRC, in hopes that DOE would provide the "conditional commitment" before the incident became known. Silence from USEC, from DOE, and from USEC's two financing agents in the United States Senate, as the June 30 deadline neared, is now explained. In nuclear industry lingo, Mr. Siurano's statement that the 24-hour notification requirement had been met could be characterized as having "suboptimal veracity."

There is no decision yet on the Department of Energy's US$2 billion loan guarantee for USEC Inc. to complete the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. USEC says it is now “most likely” looking at further cutbacks and a reduction of future investment in its planned American Centrifuge Project at Piketon. “We are reaching a critical point regarding continued funding for the American Centrifuge Project. We need to obtain a conditional commitment for the loan guarantee from DOE,“ the company said already in May.
Portsmouth Daily Times, 1 & 13 July 2011 /, 8 July 2011

Germany’s phase-out by 2022 sealed (again). On July 8, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, passed the amendment to the atomic energy bill sealing Germany's exit from nuclear power by 2022. Ten days before, on June 30, the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, approved with an overwhelming majority plans to phase-out nuclear power by 2022. The nuclear phase-out bill cleared the lower house with only the far-left voting against, while the opposition Social-Democrats and Green party both supported the bill.
Germany's new energy strategy reverses the extension of nuclear run-times, which became law earlier this year. Seven reactors built before 1980 as well as the Kruemmel reactor, which has not been online since 2007, will remain shut permanently, according to the bill. The nine remaining  reactors will be gradually phased-out between 2015 and 2022.

Germany's E.ON feels no pressure to replace nuclear power plants with alternatives after the  policy shift. "There is no strategy to replace lost nuclear capacity one-to-one. As an entrepreneur I always ask myself is my investment profitable?," Chief Executive Johannes Teyssen said on June 30. It is one of the four utilities with German nuclear power plants.

E.ON, which in an outcry earlier in June had demanded damages from the government for the closures, was holding on to the legal pursuits but had in the meantime adopted a more conciliatory stance, Teyssen said. But the group will now respect the change in policy towards renewables.
Reuters, 30 June 2011 / Platts, 30 June and 8 July 2011

Finland: inviting bids for construction npp. Finnish company Fennovoima has invited Areva and Toshiba to bid for the construction of a new nuclear power plant, which will be built at one of its greenfield sites Pyhäjoki or Simo, in northern Finland. Bids will be for the delivery and construction of the reactor and turbine islands. Infrastructure work during the first phase of construction and preparatory work such as earthmoving and excavation are excluded from the bid.

Fennovoima has already selected three alternatives for the plant design: Areva’s 1700 MW EPR, its advanced boiling water reactor the 1250 MW Kerena and the 1600 MW ABWR by Toshiba Corporation. The plant supplier and the model of delivery is due to be decided in 2012-2013. Fennovoima is planning to select the site for its nuclear power plant in 2011 and preparatory work could start by the end of 2012.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 5 July 2011

Citygroup: nuclear “uninvestable for public equity markets”. According to Peter Atherton, Citygroup’s head of European utilities research, Britain's nuclear strategy is "uninvestable" for private clients, who are only likely to put money into new plants if the government shoulders more of the risks involved. He says the investment environment is "dire." "Investors are demanding more of their returns up front in cash rather than dividends, indicating they don't trust the capital growth of the sector. "As we stand today, is (new nuclear) an investable option for Centrica, RWE? Simply put, no. The cost of capital based on those risks would be way too high to give you an electricity price which is affordable. "You would be looking at a project cost of capital of at least 15 percent. That would require a power price of about 150-200 pounds per megawatt hour (based on 2017 money) to make that project work," Atherton said, which is three to four times as much as current UK spot power prices.

"If we want (plants) built, the state will have to take on the risks," he added, saying the government could do this through direct subsidies, taxes or building new plants itself. Shares in the European utility sector have fallen about 30 percent since February 2009, according to Citigroup, as EU utilities have been more exposed to commodity price rises than in Asia or the U.S., and, most recently, due to the impact Japan's nuclear crisis.
Reuters, 6 July 2011

U.S.: Reactor proponents are batting 0-6 in state legislatures in 2011. Deep-pocketed nuclear power lobbyists may pack a big punch in Washington, D.C., but they are getting knocked out altogether at the state legislative level. So far in 2011, the nuclear power industry has a record of zero wins and six losses in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. The nuclear power industry’s dismal track record is in keeping with its history of state legislative failures in 2010 (when it went 0-8) and 2009 (0-6).

The nuclear power industry’s 2011 state legislative failures:
* Minnesota – A heavily lobbied bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on additional reactors died in conference committee.
* Wisconsin – A push to reintroduce a bill to overturn the Badger State’s moratorium on new reactors failed.
* Kentucky – A bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on new reactors died in the House.
* Missouri – Despite a major industry push, a bill to charge utility customers in advance to pay for an “Early Site Permit” for the proposed new Callaway reactor died.
* North Carolina – A “Super Construction Work in Progress (CWIP)” bill to eliminate prudence review of CWIP expenses was proposed but never introduced due to strong on-the-ground opposition.
* Iowa – A bill pushed by MidAmerican to charge utility customers in advance for “small modular reactors” as well as potentially larger reactors stalled in the state Senate and cannot be taken up again until 2012.

In 2010, nuclear power lobbyists failed in legislative pushes in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2009, the industry enjoyed no success whatsoever in its lobbying efforts in Kentucky, Minnesota, Hawaii, Illinois, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Safe Energy Program at Physicians for Social Responsibility,, 6 July 2011

Khan: North Korea paid Pakistan for nuclear secrets. In a letter released by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced nuclear scientist and ‘godfather of Pakistan's atomic bomb’, the North Korean ruling party appears to confirm that it paid more than US$3.5m (2.5m euro) to the serving army chief and at least one other senior general for transferring nuclear weapons technology to North Korea. The 1998 letter, was released as part of an attempt by Khan to establish that he was not working on his own when nuclear secrets were passed on to Iran, North Korea and Libya before his fall from grace. The two generals named in the letter fiercely denied the allegation, and denounced the letter as a forgery.

But opinion is divided not just over the authenticity of the documents, but also whether they establish that Khan was not acting alone. The Washington Post quoted unnamed US officials as saying that the letter's contents were "consistent with our knowledge" of the events described. But David Albright, a nuclear proliferation expert with the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, disputes Khan's claims that top military officials were complicit. "[The letter] shows that Khan was a rogue agent and he colluded to provide centrifuge components to North Korea without Pakistani official approval," the AP quoted him as saying. More on Khan at
Independent (UK), 8 July 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland,  (August 25 – August 30, 2010) to also talk about nuclear power.
Nuclear weapons and disarmament are still hitting media headlines. The signing of the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was an important step towards the reduction of global nuclear arsenals. European governments are pushing for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from European NATO member countries. Leading politicians of several countries are calling for active and far-reaching reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the interests of world security. It was hoped for that the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May in New York would bring further concrete measures. And although this did not happen the ‘Atomic Scientists’ decided to set back the Doomsday Clock one minute – from 5 minutes to 6 minutes to midnight.

On the other hand, some countries want to keep the prestige of being a nuclear power and some are becoming greatly interested in acquiring such power. Thousands of nuclear missiles still exist – decades after the end of the Cold War – on high alert, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Added to this, the interest of powerful companies in the military-industrial complex to continue building nuclear missiles is strongly influential. These companies put forward persuasive arguments for retaining the status quo through the use of intense political lobbying.

“Global Zero” is the desire of many millions of people and is also the vision of  the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Join them in sharing this vision in August at the 19th IPPNW World Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Traditionally the IPPNW only talks about nuclear weapons. This time their pre-conference programme also touches upon the issue of nuclear energy. Take this opportunity to discuss with them the important role ”civil” nuclear energy plays in increasing proliferation risks.
Check the programme at

Italy: Regions have no say in siting nuclear reactors.
On June 30, Italy's highest court rejected an appeal by 10 Italian regions to have a say on the location of any nuclear power plants built.

Last July, the right wing majority in the Parliament adopted a law that gives extra power to the government in order to choose sites for new nuclear plants and provides the use of military forces to make its realization possible. On September 30, with the support of environmental organizations, 10 of 20 regions contested that law asking the intervention of the Constitutional Court. According to the regions the law violates the Italian Constitution by giving the government the power to decide without the consensus of local institutions. The June 30 ruling by the Constitutional Court effectively means the central government will have the final say on the site of the plants.

Nuclear power was abandoned in Italy nearly 25 years ago after a referendum in 1987. Enel and France's EDF would like to start building four nuclear power stations in Italy in 2013. Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy and local authorities had demanded a say in their approval.
Reuters, 23 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702

After N-Korean 'nuclear breakthrough': xenon levels, eight times higher. Abnormal radiation was detected near the inter-Korean border days after North Korea claimed to have achieved a nuclear technology breakthrough, South Korea's Science Ministry said June 21. It failed to find the cause of the radiation but ruled out a possible underground nuclear test by North Korea, because there is no evidence of a strong earthquake that must follow an atomic explosion.

On May 12, North Korea claimed its scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction - a technology also necessary to manufacture a hydrogen bomb. South Korean experts doubted the North actually made such a breakthrough. On May 15, however, the atmospheric concentration of xenon - an inert gas released after a nuclear explosion or radioactive leakage from a nuclear power plant - on the South Korean side of the inter-Korean border was found to be eight times higher than normal.

Nuclear fusion as cause for the Xenon-measurement is very unlikely (to say the least). To start with: the alledged fusion breakthrough supposedly took place in mid-April and the half-lives of its radioisotopes are counted in hours or days. So a measurement almost a month  later is very unlike. But most important: a fusion reaction doesn’t produce fission products. Radioactive Xe isotopes, besides from a weapons test, can also be produced from operating a fission reactor with cracked fuel rods or from fission occurring in cooling water from released fuel. So possibly the higher levels could have been from built up Xe within a reactor containment vessel from an accident. A Science Ministry official said the wind was blowing from north to south when the xenon was detected and said it could have come from Russia or China, not necessarily from North Korea.
The Associated Press, 21 June 2010 /, 21 June 2010

Nuclear projects in Baltic Region.
On June 16, antinuclear activists with protest banners greeted IAEA head Y.Amano and  Lithuanian Prime Minister A. Kubilius during their participation in the Roundtable discussion on "Regional nuclear energy projects" in Vilnius, Lithuania. Activists called to cancel development of the three nuclear energy projects in the Baltic region and to switch investments and cooperation to renewables and energy efficiency. Ostrovec nuclear power plant (Belarus), Baltic npp (Russia, Kaliningrad region) and the Visaginas nuclear power plant (Lithuania) are  primary targets for the criticism of environmentalists from Lithuania, Belarus and Russia. All these planned nuclear power plants face similar problems: safety, environmental, radioactive waste management, fake plans for investment.Later activists took part in the roundtable discussion as observers. Main issue there was that each country was convincing others how important their nuclear project is for the country and how good for the region. Lithuania was raising doubts about various aspects of Belarussian and Kaliningrad nuclear projects, promoting its own as "more transparent and safer".
Email: Lina Vainius, 17 June 2010

New name for GNEP: INFEC.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Steering Group met in Accra, Ghana on June 16-17, 2010 and approved unanimously several transformative changes. This to "reflect global developments that have occurred since the Partnership was established in 2007".  The transformation includes a new name - the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (INFEC)-- and the establishment of a new Statement of Mission. One of the main points of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by the United States in 2004, was to limit spread of enrichment (as well as reprocessing) technology. At the core of the strategy was the idea that countries that don't have fuel cycle facilities would refrain from acquiring them and accept the status of "fuel customers". Fuel services would then be provided by "fuel suppliers", who already have the necessary technology. There were doubts about the viability of this strategy from the very beginning.

The IFNEC acronym brings back echoes of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE) program under the IAEA in the late 1970s. It too was set up on the initiative of the USA and worked on the "urgent need to meet the world's energy requirements," to make nuclear energy more widely available and "to minimize the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation without jeopardizing energy supplies or the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes" all with special attention for the needs of developing countries. One interesting difference was the inclusion of Iran as co-chair of INFCE's group on uranium enrichment availability.

Last year in June, the US. Department of Energy (DoE) decided to cancel the GNEP programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) because it is no longer pursuing domestic commercial reprocessing, which was the primary focus of the prior administration's domestic GNEP program. That decision followed a change in government policy on commercial reprocessing since president Obama took over from Bush.

Jordan formally announced that it will host the next meeting of the International Framework's Executive Committee in the fall of 2010. Some 25 countries have joined the GNEP.
Press release US. Department of Energy, 18 June 2010 / World Nuclear News, 21 June 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009

China bends international rules to sell reactors to Pakistan.
China has agreed to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Under the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG) guidelines, countries other than China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the five recognized nuclear weapon states) are not eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to inspections known as full-scope safeguards. Pakistan currently does not open all of its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

The US government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations.” Given that the US has signed a major nuclear deal with India – like Pakistan, a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the move smacks of hypocrisy. The US pushed the IAEA into conceding to country-specific safeguards for India’s reactors, then lobbied for country-specific concessions for India from the NSG. As a result, lucrative nuclear contracts are being signed by India and countries like France, Russia and the UK. As such, when experts cite the violation of the NPT’s international guidelines by the Pakistan-China civilian nuclear deal, the IAEA and NSG concessions to India give this posturing little credibility.

(More on the deal and its consequences: Nuclear Monitor 709, 12 May 2010: "China: US-India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan")
The Sunflower (eNewsletter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation), issue 156, July 2010.

Brazil: Angra 3 To Cost US$ 550 million more.
The overall budget for the construction of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant in Brazil will be around R$ 9.9 billion (US$ 5.06 billion or 4.03 billion euro), according to the manager of Planning and Budgeting of Eletronuclear, Roberto Travassos. The increase of more than R$ 1 billion (US$ 550 million or 438 million euro) over the previous estimate (R$ 8.77 billion/ US$ 4.875 billion), is the result of contract  revisions and monetary correction of former estimates.
Global Energy (Brazil), 1 July 2010

Outgoing UN Inspector: dubious role on Iran.
Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned July 1, after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran. Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program. But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection. The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research program, originally called the "Green Salt" project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the "alleged studies." The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons program The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear program were immediately skeptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been "fabricated by a Western intelligence organizations." Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.
Gareth Porter at, 2 July 2010

U.K.: Waste costs 'not acceptable' for industry.
The nuclear industry has been heavily lobbying to change proposed charges for managing wastes from nuclear reactors. Papers released under Freedom of Information show how the French company EDF pressed the previous government to change the proposed 'high fixed cost' for managing wastes and the timetable for handing the management of wastes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The previous government made significant changes to the way it initially proposed charging companies for managing their wastes. It also agreed that responsibility for wastes should pass to the NDA after 60 years instead of the original 110 years. This would reduce the financial liabilities and costs for companies.

EDF told the government the original proposals were "non-acceptable" and made it uneconomic to develop new reactors.
N-Base Briefing 665, 9 June 2010

North Korea: second nuclear test

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

On May 25 North Korea conducted a second underground nuclear test. History shows that – in contrast with import of uranium enrichment technology - there is nothing illegal about the acquisition of the weapons-grade plutonium by North Korea and its nuclear test. It’s an everlasting myth that underground nuclear blasts don’t cause any radioactive contamination. In fact they can just only conclusively proved by this phenomenon. The only way to stop nuclear testing is to stop and to prevent the rationale of deterrence by mediating conflicts.

The May 25 blast was up to 20 times more powerful than the first nuclear test on October 9, 2006. This first test was considered to have been relatively weak, about 1 kiloton, suggesting design problems. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) gave no details of the location of the latest test. However, South Korean officials said a tremor was detected around the north-eastern town of Kilju, near where the first test was conducted, close to the Russian border.

In a comment in The Times Dr. David Lowry, former director of the European Proliferation Information Centre, stated that Korea’s actions are not unlawful or illegal, though they are certainly against progressive security norms. In January 2003, North Korea didn’t illegally leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as under treaty Article X this is permitted. Lowry: “Among the grievances North Korea cited to justify departure from the NPT was continuous verbal aggression by a bellicose U.S., including dubbing North Korea a “rogue state,” and President Bush including North Korea with Iraq and Iran as part of the infamous Axis of Evil.”

Radioactive pollution
In order to calm down the public in Russia's Far East, the Russian media reported that a team of meteorologists hasn't detected an increase in radiation levels in the air. However, an anonymous U.S. official said that tests for radioactivity in air samples from the region were still underway. After the 2006 nuclear test, it took a U.S. airplane less than a week to detect radioactive material in air over the East Sea. Though the seismology readings are consistent with an atomic explosion, an initial round of analysis did not confirm that Pyongyang fired a second atomic bomb. Another defense source declared to the South Korean press agency Yonhap that South Korea is checking air samples for radioactive material at the military facility in Dongducheon, 40 km north of Seoul and only 15 km from the border, and where the U.S. Forces has a large portion of its troops stationed. They operate jointly with other centers across South Korea to confirm the North Korean announcement of a nuclear test, the source said.

Virtually all underground tests leak a fraction of their radioactive noble gases after the blast. These gases can be detected hundreds of meters high at distances hundreds or thousands of kilometers away. This is where the anonymous official was referring to. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. are currently sampling the air downwind of the North Korean test site and trying to detect traces of radioactive xenon, a common tracer of a nuclear explosion. About 8 percent of the elements created in the fission explosion comprise radioactive noble gases of krypton and xenon. These radioactive gases can damage our genetic material and many many of them decay into solid radioactive particles that are known as deadly substances. 

History of North Korea’s nuclear program
North Korea’s nuclear program started in the 1950s with conducting research on radioactive isotopes for multiple applications at the Academy of Sciences. The Yongbyon nuclear energy research complex was built in the early 1960s. After completion the Soviet Union provided the IRT-2000 Nuclear Research Reactor at the site in 1965. The small research reactor first went critical in August 1965, but did not become fully operational until 1967 after two years of testing. The IRT-2000 was originally 2MW(th), but North Korea expanded its capacity to 4MW(th) in 1974, and to 8MW(th) in 1987. Pyongyang subsequently expanded the complex and built a number of new facilities. The Yongbyon facility houses thousands of scientists and researchers, many of whom studied nuclear technology in the Soviet Union, China and Pakistan. The military runs the nuclear weapons program along with the intelligence service — under the direct supervision of President Kim Jong-Il.

The Yongbyon nuclear energy research complex includes a large plutonium reprocessing plant as known as the Radiochemistry Laboratory. This facility is a six-story building, approximately 180m in length, 20m in width, and about the size of two football fields. The primary function of the installation is to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. One assumes the construction began in 1985, and by 1992 it had been completed. North Korea signed the NPT in 1985 but did not submit to IAEA inspections until May 1992. In May 1992 North Korea declared to the IAEA that this facility was for training nuclear specialists in separating plutonium, and for handling nuclear waste. However, during IAEA inspections in 1992, the IAEA concluded that it was a reprocessing facility. In 1993, IAEA inspectors discovered that North Korea was preparing to install a second reprocessing line in the building. At that time, inspectors estimated that about 70 percent of the facility’s internal equipment had been installed.

Experimental Reactor
The plutonium North Korea separated in the Radiochemistry Laboratory for building their nuclear weapons was probably mainly from the spent nuclear fuel of its 5MW(e) Experimental Reactor. This is a graphite-moderated, gas-cooled reactor with a thermal power range of 20-25MW. In his comment in The Times Lowry reminds to a long forgotten written Parliamentary answer in the House of Commons by Douglas Hogg, when he was a junior foreign office minister 15 years ago. Responding to Llew Smith, then a backbench Labour MP with strong anti-nuclear leanings “We do not know whether North Korea has drawn on plans of British reactors in the production of its own reactors. North Korea possesses a graphite moderated reactor which, while much smaller, has generic similarities to the reactors operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc.” He then added: “However, design information of these British reactors is not classified and has appeared in technical journals.” A few months earlier, Hogg, responding to another Smith question asking whether the foreign office had been requested by the IAEA to provide details of the Magnox nuclear plant design from which the North Koreans developed its nuclear reactor design for the plant currently part of the nuclear inspection effort of the special IAEA safeguards inspection team presently in North Korea, revealed “Information has been provided to the IAEA on Magnox reactor design to allow it to validate a computer program used for reactor physics calculations. Such calculations can be applied in the safeguarding of any graphite moderated reactor.” This Magnox reactor design was the one used at Calder Hall at Sellafield to produce military plutonium for the U.K. nuclear weapons program […].”

Construction of the Korean Calder Hall clone reactor began in either 1979 or 1980, and was reportedly under construction by at least July 1980. The reactor is fueled by natural uranium, which is abundant in North Korea. Another advantage by using this reactor design is the use of carbon dioxide in the cooling system, which means that it doesn’t need heavy water. In addition, the reactor uses graphite as a moderator. Graphite is also available in North Korea. The problem with this type of reactor is that it is difficult to store the spent fuel for an extended period - the fuel cladding is magnesium, which breaks down when exposed to water or moisture – turned out to be an advantage for North Korea. There isn’t necessarily a suspicion for military purposes when the spent fuel is reprocessed, because this activity is a necessity in this case. The reactor went critical on August 14, 1985 and operational in 1986. According to North Korea the reactor was operated between 1986 and 1994. According to data presented on the website of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) the reactor was shut down for 71 days in 1989, about 30 days in 1990, and about 50 days in 1991. These periods could have been used to discharge the spent fuel. The reactor was not being monitored by the IAEA because North Korea did not ratify a safeguards agreement until April 1992.

Plutonium stocks in the 1990s
The amount of plutonium that could have been taken from the Experimental Reactor depends upon the operational history of the reactor, the reprocessing technology, and the measure in which North Korea exploited the opportunities provided by shutdowns of the reactor in 1989, 1990 and 1991. According to IAEA inspectors North Korea almost certainly reprocessed plutonium in all three years. It is widely assumed that about 4 kg of plutonium has been reprocessed from the IRT-2000 Nuclear Research Reactor and that the upper bound for the amount of plutonium that could have been extracted from the Experimental Reactor is approximately 6.9 to 10.7 kg. These amounts, calculated by David Albright are widely accepted by analysts. Enough weapon-grade plutonium for two bombs. Sources within Japanese and South Korean intelligence services claim North Korea may have extracted more plutonium during reactor slowdowns in 1990 and 1991, with a total amount of 24 kg of plutonium. In 1993 the German weekly magazine Stern cited a Russian counterintelligence report claiming that North Korea had bought 56 kg of Russian plutonium on the black market.

IAEA safeguards inspections
In April 1992, after inspection of the Experimental Reactor and other nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, the IAEA discovered discrepancies in North Korea’s initial declaration. This led to special ad hoc inspections. In June 1993, Pyongyang began bilateral negotiations with Washington to resolve the impasse. North Korea allowed the batteries and film for cameras to be replaced, but not the return of IAEA inspectors to complete the inspections that began in May 1992. In May and June 1994, North Korean technicians, without the supervision of IAEA inspectors, once again discharged the reactor’s spent fuel rods and placed them in the cooling pond. This action nearly led to a military confrontation with the United States, before former President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Pyongyang defused the crisis. Carter’s trip encouraged Kim Il Sung to accept some guidelines that resulted in the negotiation and conclusion of the Agreed Framework in October 1994.

Nuclear trade with Khan
With the abandonment of its plutonium program after the Agreed Framework, U.S. officials claimed North Korea began a uranium enrichment program. Around 1997, according to U.S. intelligence officials, Pakistan, through Abdul Qadeer Khan, supplied key technology and information to North Korea in exchange for missile technology. From Pakistan, ultracentrifuge technology, knowledge and material, were exported to among others North Korea. A mixture of legal and illegal transactions, involving businessmen from all over the world as well as individuals in the higher circles of the military and political elite in Pakistan allowed nuclear proliferation to proceed much faster than even those familiar with the issue expected. In the 1970s Khan obtained the most modern blueprint from the drawing board of Urenco’s ultracentrifuge technology in the Netherlands. President Musharaf acknowledged in 2005 that Khan had provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea. Some evidence points to the existence of this program as early as 1987. This program apparently received new life in 1997 when Pakistan, strapped for cash by U.S. sanctions, began paying for its North Korean missile imports with uranium enrichment technology. In a written statement - that was mentioned in relation to Khan’s public confession of having leaked nuclear technology on 4 February 2004 - Khan himself is said to have confessed to selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

A December 2001 U.S. National Intelligence Council report ascertained that in the mid-1990s, North Korea had produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons. In December 2002, Pyongyang lifted the freeze on its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program and expelled IAEA inspectors. On 10 January 2003, North Korea declared its withdrawal from the NPT and on 10 February 2005, North Korea announced that it had manufactured nuclear weapons.

Current plutonium stocks
In May 2008 the U.S. received North Korean Plutonium Program documents. North Korea delivered 18,000 pages of documents describing the nation’s plutonium production program to a senior U.S. State Department official. Included in the records is information on the state’s efforts in 1990, 2003 and 2005 to reprocess plutonium for nuclear weapons. The records should help to clarify the amount of plutonium produced by Pyongyang. Officials there have apparently placed the stockpile at around 30 kg, while U.S. officials believe the actual amount could be closer to 50 kg. The receipt of the documents took place during talks that were held aiming at breaking the deadlock over the October 2007 six-nation agreement under which North Korea would receive economic, security and diplomatic benefits in exchange for giving up its nuclear sector.

Rationale of nuclear tests and necessity of nuclear disarmament
In line with the statements made by Dr. David Lowry, David Krieger - president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – notes that the rationale for virtually all nuclear tests by all states has been to bolster a country’s nuclear deterrent for the purpose of self-defense. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, all nuclear powers, have tested nuclear weapons in total more than 2,000 times. The U.S. alone has tested over 1,000 times. That means that North Korea, which has conducted two nuclear tests, has tested one thousandth the number of times as the five recognized nuclear weapons states have tested and one five-hundredth the number of times the US has tested. Krieger adds to these clarifying comparisons: “It is, of course, dead wrong that deterrence provides a country with protection. In fact, it may lead to a country being attacked by nuclear arms.” U.S. President Barack Obama promised to place nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament high on his administration's agenda. He seems to understand the threat of an increasing nuclear deterrence on the globe. Hopefully, these first steps of the Obama administration will have major follow-ups.

Sources: The Moscow Times, 27 May 2009 / AFP, 29 May 2009 / Yonhap. 26 May 2009 /
‘Nuclear explosions conducted underground are definitely not safe’at / / / Nuclear Monitor, 15 May 2008 / Korea’s actions are not unlawful, The Times, 29 May 2009 / A.Q. Khan, Urenco and the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology at /

Contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: + 31-20-6168294

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Chernobyl still contaminating British sheep.

It exploded 23 years ago today more than 2,250 km away, but Chernobyl is still contaminating sheep in the United Kingdom. According to the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA), the number of farms and animals still under movement restrictions in the UK has hardly changed over the past year. New figures given in the House of Commons late April show there are still 190,000 sheep subject to restriction orders on 369 farms or holdings. The details are: Wales 355 farms 180,000 sheep; England 9 farms 3,000 sheep; Scotland 5 farms and 3,000 sheep.

Peat and grass in upland areas were polluted with radioactive caesium-137 released by the accident and brought to ground by rain. This is eaten by sheep and has persisted much longer than originally anticipated. The restrictions apply where concentrations of caesium-137 in sheep exceed 1,000 Becquerel of radioactivity per kilogram. Farmers have to mark the radioactive animals with indelible paint, and can't have them slaughtered for food until they fall below the limit.

N-Base briefing 611, 29 April 2009 / Sunday Herald, 26 April 2009

FirstEnergy finds hole in containment wall at rusty Pennsylvania reactor.

During a recent visual inspection inside the Beaver Valley Unit 1 reactor containment building, a rusty discolored bubble was discovered under the protective paint coating on the inside wall of the steel liner to the thick concrete containment. When the unbroken paint bubble was removed for further inspection, First Energy Nuclear Corporation (FENOC) found a corrosion hole had eaten through from the outside of the 3/8 inch (0.95 cm) thick steel containment liner wall. Inspectors could see the concrete wall on the other side. The containment's steel liner is a principle safety barrier designed to be leak tight to contain the radioactive gas generated under normal operations and accident conditions. FENOC says that a small piece of wet wood, trapped during the original construction and left in contact with the outside steel liner wall, was the cause of the severe corrosion. The plan is to weld a steel patch over the hole. With the reactor nearing approval of an unchallenged 20-year license extension application, the severity of the previously unnoticed corrosion caught Nuclear Regulatory Commission and company officials by surprise. The Beaver Valley reactor is located northwest of Pittsburgh.

Considering all the other debris pitched into the containment's concrete pours there is very likely more corrosion than can be found with visual inspection. Beyond Nuclear expects that NRC will issue a detailed information notice but fall short of its regulatory responsibility by not requiring industry action. In fact, NRC should require a prompt and thorough technical assessment of Beaver Valley's containment integrity in order to rule out the likely possibility that more unseen corrosion is still eating its way into the containment structure. Using state-of-the-art ultrasonic testing equipment, this could be done before the plant goes back on line and certainly before the agency approves the reactor's 20-year extension. Similarly, since debris was likely thrown into many more containment pours around the country, NRC should require an industry-wide scan of all the aging containment liners. Remember, FirstEnergy is the same company that operated its corroded Davis-Besse reactor with the hole in the head. And NRC is the same agency with its head in a hole that favored getting Davis-Besse back on line quickly despite graphic photos of severe corrosion that warned otherwise. In both cases, the NRC gambling of safety margins for production margins corrodes public confidence and increases the risks from nuclear accidents.

Beyond Nuclear Bulletin, 1 may 2009

UK: Wind farm demolished for nuclear power plant?

One of the oldest and most efficient wind farms in Britain is to be dismantled and replaced by a nuclear power station under plans drawn up by the German-owned power group RWE. The site at Kirksanton in Cumbria – home to the Haverigg turbines - has just been approved by the government for potential atomic newbuild in a move that has infuriated the wind power industry. Colin Palmer, founder of the Windcluster company, which owns part of the Haverigg wind farm, said he was horrified that such a plan could be considered at a time when Britain risks missing its green energy targets and after reassurance from ministers that nuclear and renewables were not incompatible.

The Haverigg site, on the fringes of the Lake District, was commissioned in 1992 and is believed to be one of only two of its type in this country. The scheme has been praised by Friends of the Lake District as a fine example of appropriate wind energy development and the turbines were financed by a pioneering group of ethical investors (now called the Triodos Bank). The site was subsequently expanded to a total of eight turbines. Haverigg was still one of the most efficient wind farms with a 35% "capacity factor" - or efficiency - compared with an average of 30%, said Palmer. It is a historically important wind farm for the UK, which played a key role in inspiring others.  

Meanwhile, a new report by the independent think-tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), has found that the UK Government's "obsession" with nuclear power is hindering development of sustainable energy alternatives which were better and cheaper. The report, 'The British Nuclear Industry - Status and Prospects', written by Dr. Ian Davis, states: "The Government's obsession with nuclear power is undermining and marginalizing more efficient and safer technologies - the real energy solutions." Renewable energy, greater energy efficient and other technologies could fill the gap when existing reactors became redundant.

The Guardian (UK), 28 April 2009 / N-Base Briefing, 29 April 2009

Kazakhstan: proposal to host fuel-bank sparks anti-nuclear protest.

On April 14, police in Almaty the capital of Kazakhstan, have prevented a small protest by opponents of a Kazak government proposal to host a “nuclear fuel bank” that would provide a secure supply to power stations across the world. It was never going to be a big demonstration, just 30 or so like-minded representatives of non-government groups involved in human rights and similar areas. But it did not even get off the ground. As they were setting out from their office for Almaty’s main square, three activists from the human rights group Ar.Ruh.Hak were detained by police. Seven members of the opposition party Azat and two journalists were picked up separately. All 12 were taken to a police station and released after making statements. In a statement, the seven NGOs which planned the protest meeting said the lack of government transparency on issues like the nuclear one should raise concerns. For opponents of the plan, the legacy of Semipalatinsk (a testing ground where over 450 atom bombs were set off by the Soviet authorities between 1949 and 1989) plus the risk that the fuel bank will not be secure, constitute serious objections. Kazakhstan is a major producer of uranium – it has about 20 per cent of the world's ore reserves.

The Fuel-Bank, which would be supervised by the IAEA would provide ‘a secure and controlled source of fissile material for peaceful use’ as the Agency likes to put it. Countries would no longer have ‘an excuse’ to develop uranium enrichment programs, which carry the risk of being uses for ‘non-peaceful meanings’. Countries would simply buy fuel from the bank when they needed it. After the IAEA first came up with the idea in 2005, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement with the agency to look at setting up a storage facility in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, which has a uranium enrichment plant. Now Kazakhstan has offered its own facilities. President Nursultan Nazarbaev revealed the proposal when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the capital Astana on April 6 that prompted Kazak NGOs into action.

Institute For War And Peace Reporting,  17 April 2009

Nuclear safety in Canada.

Unlike the governments of other developed nations, the Canadian government and Parliament can now directly control the start-up and operation of nuclear reactors. This is the result of a recent Federal Court ruling that allows the government to remove the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) without cause. Unless the Supreme Court overturns this decision or parliamentarians pass legislation to remove this power from the government, protection from nuclear mishaps in Canada could depend on the political whims of sitting governments and Parliament.

The Federal Court ruled earlier in April that the Harper government had the right to remove without cause the then-president of the CNSC, Linda Keen. This means that the CNSC head serves at the pleasure of the government rather than until the end of an appointed term, subject only to good behavior. The incident that precipitated the court case was Keen's refusal, despite pressure from the Prime Minister and natural resources minister, to restart a reactor to alleviate a shortage of medical isotopes. Keen said the reactor did not met its licensing requirements. The government removed Keen as head of the CNSC, and Parliament voted to restart the reactor.

Toronto Star (Canada), 21 April 2009

IAEA Inspectors Asked to Leave DPRK.

On April 14, IAEA issued a statement on the situation in North-Korea: "The Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has today informed IAEA inspectors in the Yongbyon facility that it is immediately ceasing all cooperation with the IAEA. It has requested the removal of all containment and surveillance equipment, following which, IAEA inspectors will no longer be provided access to the facility. The inspectors have also been asked to leave the DPRK at the earliest possible time.
The DPRK also informed the IAEA that it has decided to reactivate all facilities and go ahead with the reprocessing of spent fuel." IAEA inspectors removed all IAEA seals and switched off surveillance cameras on April 15. They left the country the following day.

IAEA inspectors returned to monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea, after a report outlining the modalities reached between the Agency and the DPRK were approved by the IAEA on 9 July 2007.

The latest move by DPRK is a reaction on an April 13 statement by the United Nations' Security Council denouncing the North’s rocket launching as a violation of a resolution after the North’s first nuclear test in 2006 that banned the country from nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The Council called for tightening sanctions.

On April 29, North Korea said that it would start a uranium enrichment program, declaring for the first time that it intended to pursue a second project unless the United Nations lifted sanctions.

IAEA Press Release, 14 April 2009 / New York Times, 29 April 2009/  IAEA Staff report, 9 July 2007

Trouble for UAE-US nuclear agreement.

The president of the U.S.-UAE Business Council, Danny Sebright, expected U.S. president Barack Obama to issue a presidential determination that the nuclear agreement with the United Arab Emirates, signed in January, in the last days of the administration of former President George W. Bush, is in the best interests of the United States.  That would set the stage for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to formally notify Congress of the United States' intention to enter into the nuclear energy cooperation deal with one of Iran's neighbors, giving lawmakers 90 days to vote down the pact if they choose.

Under the "123 deal," similar to the one the United States signed last year with India, Washington would share nuclear technology, expertise and fuel. In exchange, the UAE commits to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The small oil-rich Gulf nation (the world's third largest oil exporter in 2007) promises not to enrich uranium or to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs. The deal is part of a major UAE investment in nuclear, and it has already signed deals to build several nuclear power plants. The United States already has similar nuclear cooperation agreements with Egypt and Morocco, and U.S. officials said Washington is working on similar pacts with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan.

Lobby for the project is ongoing: a May 5, report on the economic benefits of US-UAE 123 Agreement said the UAE nuclear program would generate contracts worth more than US$41billion benefiting American companies that could participate as suppliers or as central leaders in consortiums bidding on projects. The sky is the limit.

However, opposition about the deal is growing rapidly after footage was made public in the U.S. On the tape, an Afghan grain dealer is seen being tortured by a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, one of the UAE's seven emirates. The ratification of the deal has been postponed.

Meanwhile, the UAE last year surpassed Israel as the United States' largest export market in the Middle East. Furthermore, the small country has become the third-biggest arms importer worldwide, SIPRI announced earlier in April. The figures from the UAE reflected what the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) described as a "worrying" regional trend of increased arms imports into the Middle East. The country accounted for 6.0 percent of the world's arms imports between 2004 and 2008, according to the new report from the (SIPRI) -- the same proportion as South Korea. Only China with 11 percent and India with 7.0 percent, had a larger share of the market, said the report. The UAE's position was all the more striking because in the previous study, covering the period 1999-2003, the UAE was only the 16th biggest importer of military equipment worldwide.

Middle East Online, 17 April 2009 / Reuters, 29 April 2009 / CNN, 29 April 2009 /, 5 May 2009

‘Near Miss’ at Sellafield’s High Level Waste Storage Tank Complex.

On April 2, an incident at Sellafield’s High Level Waste (HLW) Storage Tank Complex occurred, involving a loss of coolant water to all the storage tanks following the incorrect re-instatement of one of a number of control valves that had been isolated for maintenance. Because some of the storage tanks have a higher heat loading (the liquid HLW is physically hot as well as being highly radioactive) than others, efforts to re-instate the cooling water supply were directed first at the three tanks with the highest heat loading. Cooling was restored to the first of these after 75 minutes, and to all three tanks after 3 hours. Reporting today on the incident, Sellafield’s in-house Newsletter states that cooling was restored to all tanks within 8 hours. This is perilously close to the timescale of 10.5 hours catered for in the Sellafield site’s emergency plan (REPPIR).

Since the closure of Sellafield’s Calder Hall reactors in 2003, an accident involving the loss of coolant to the HLW tanks is designated as the ‘Reference Accident’ (worst credible accident) for Sellafield’s Emergency Plans under the Radiation and Emergency Preparedness and Public Information Regulations (REPPIR). The Reference Accident is described as being ‘a failure of the entire cooling water distribution system to the High Level Radioactive Waste Store following a single flange failure or leak from a length of pipe. The accident scenario assumes a failure to reinstate the cooling system within a period of 10.5 hours and that it has not been possible to isolate the failed section of pipe’.

The existing tanks, holding a significantly larger inventory of radioactive materials than were released during the Chernobyl accident, were commissioned between 1955 and 1990. They have long been subject of concern by the NII through the increasing failure of cooling components. Plans to construct and install new, smaller tanks are currently being assessed by Sellafield and the regulators.`

CORE Press release, 9 April 2009

IAEA: Still no successor for ElBaradei.

A total of five candidates have put themselves foward to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The five come from Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Japan and South Africa. The Japanese Ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna, Yukiya Amano, as well as South Africa's representative, Abdul Samad Minty, have reentered the contest after failing to win a majority in a first voting session among IAEA governing board members in March. The other three are:

* Jean-Pol Poncelet, a former Belgian Deputy Prime Minister who currently serves as a senior vice president at the French nuclear group Areva (responsible for sustainable development and the improvement of quality processes).

* Spanish nuclear expert Luis Echavarri, the head of the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

* The fifth potential successor is the Slovenian Ernest Petric, a former ambassador in Vienna who currently serves as a judge on his country's constitutional court.

In a first session of voting among the 35 countries on the IAEA board, Amano narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority, while Minty had the support of only 15 countries.

The U.S. and European countries supported Amano, as they saw him as a nuclear-policy expert who is considered to be less politically outspoken than Minty or ElBaradei.

A new date for voting at the IAEA board has yet to be fixed. IAEA Board Chairperson Ms. Feroukhi is soon to initiate informal consultations on the nominations receive.

Dr. ElBaradei, who is to retire on November 30, is the IAEA´s fourth Director General since 1957. He was first appointed to the office effective December 1997. He follows Hans Blix, IAEA Director General from 1981 to 1997; Sigvard Eklund, IAEA Director General from 1961 to 1981; and Sterling Cole, IAEA Director General from 1957 to 1961.

EarthTimes, 27 April 2009 / IAEA Staff Report, 29 April 2009

China: warnings from within.

According to China's director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, Li Ganjie, the quick expansion of China's nuclear energy production is far outpacing the regulation of its nuclear reactors. "At the current stage, if we are not fully aware of the sector's over-rapid expansions, it will threaten construction quality and operation safety of nuclear power plants," Li Ganjie told an International Ministerial Conference on nuclear energy.

The Communist Party newspaper Renmin Ribao on April 21 reported Ganjie saying in unusually strong terms that China has insufficient capacity to handle nuclear waste. Li said the storage of past nuclear waste was 'not entirely under control'. In a report presented to the IAEA-sponsored international conference on the future of nuclear power Li stated that nuclear safeguards in China are weak and insufficient to keep up with the country's need to develop nuclear energy and technology: there is a dearth of personnel, technical equipment, financing and investment.

Planetark, 21 April 2009 /, 21 April 2009

U.K.: Faslane leaks.

The revelation that there have been a series of radioactive leaks into the Firth of Clyde from the Ministry of Defence's Faslane nuclear submarine base has once again focused attention on the lack of regulation for military facilities. Documents released to Channel 4 News under Freedom of Information show there have been over 40 leaks in the last three decades and at least eight in the past 10 years. Military facilities have immunity from regulation and operate under 'letters of agreement' with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and their equivalent regulators in England and Wales.

SEPA is so concerned at the leaks and general waste management at Faslane that it would have considered closing the facility down if it had the power. A Ministry of Defence report said failure to abide by safety procedures at Faslane was a "recurring theme" and was a cultural issue that must be addressed. The report also accepted Faslane failed to use the 'best practicable means' to control waste, there was poor design of holding tanks, weld defects in piping, a lack of accurate drawings of the plant and low staffing levels.

N-Base Briefing, 29 April 2009


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

North Korea had three nuclear bombs.

(April 16, 2004) The New York Times has reported that A Q Khan, the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs, has revealed to investigators that he saw three nuclear bombs in North Korea five years ago. Pakistan's government is said to have released details of Khan's visit to an underground weapons facility one hour from Pyongyang 3-4 weeks ago as a warning to states within its missile range. The leaking of such sensitive information in Washington appears linked to US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Beijing where he hopes to persuade China to take a tougher stance on North Korea. The Bush administration had previously been frustrated by Beijing's reluctance to apply more pressure on its former ally. Cheney has presented the Chinese with its 'new evidence' but has insisted that the US is still committed to six-party talks but would soon be seeking "real results". (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 602.5572 "North Korea welcomes US delegation")

There are suggestions that Washington may also be seeking to influence the 15 April parliamentary elections in South Korea that are expected to decide the fate of President Roh Moo-hyun, who is mistrusted by the US for his soft line on Pyongyang. Khan's report will be difficult to verify given that Pakistani authorities have refused to allow questioning by the international community. It is also unclear if Khan, who is not a trained nuclear scientist, has the expertise to recognize an actual nuclear weapon as opposed to a mock-up.
The New York Times, 13 & 14 April 2004; The Guardian, 14 April 2004


NIRS & Public Citizen petition NRC.


(April 16, 2004) NIRS and Public Citizen have jointly petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to participate in the forthcoming licensing procedure for the proposed uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico. The groups are representing their members living near the site of the proposed facility who are concerned with the inconsistencies, misrepresentations and unlawful aspects of the application, including the lack of a strategy to dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes. NIRS and Public Citizen also cited problems with the application in its treatment of water resources, national security and nuclear proliferation, the need for the facility and the cost of decommissioning the plant once it ceases operating. This is the third attempt by Louisiana Energy Services (LES) at securing a site for its nuclear plant - earlier attempts were withdrawn following intense public opposition.
Joint NIRS, Public Citizen & Southwest Research Information Center News Release, 6 April 2004


French PM pro new nukes.


(April 16, 2004) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confirmed his support for the construction of new nuclear power plants on 5 April. He told parliament that France should build the experimental 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), claiming it was 'our responsibility to ensure the future of the nuclear option' and that he would request a parliamentary debate on the issue 'within the coming weeks'.
WNA News Briefing, 7-13 April 2004


Russian researcher sentenced.


(April 16, 2004) A weapons specialist for the prestigious USA-Canada Institute has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage in a closed trial in Moscow. Igor Sutyagin was convicted of supplying an UK firm, allegedly used as a front for the CIA, with information on submarines and missile warning systems. Sutyagin's defense argued that the researcher's work had been based on publicly available sources and that he had had no indication that the company was as intelligence cover. Human rights activists in Russia and around the world have condemned the verdict and there are reports suggesting irregularities during the trial and political motivation for the trial and conviction. The trail judge is said to have given the jury incorrect instruction by asking them to determine whether Sutyagin had passed on information, which he did not deny, rather than whether he had passed on state secrets.
AP, 5 April 2004; BBC News 7 April 2004


Fund for sick nuclear worker not paying out.


(April 16, 2004) Four years after the US Congress passed a law to aid sick nuclear plant workers, the compensation fund has only managed to process the claim of one worker who was sent a check for US$ 15,000 despite the government earmarking US$74 million for the program. The Energy Department, responsible for the program, claimed during a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee that it would require more time and money to do a better job. Approximately 22,000 eligible workers filed for assistance yet only 372 have received feedback on their applications. Robert Card, the department's undersecretary said the agency needed an another US$ 33 million, in addition to the US$ 26 million already spent on the program this year to speed up the programs pace. Card and his assistant Beverly Cook have since resigned from their posts. Some lawmakers have recommended moving the program to the Labor Department, which already runs a program for compensating workers affected by radiation exposure.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 30 March & 2 April 2004


UK government advisers consider waste disposal options.


(April 16, 2004) Last year the Blair government appointed a committee on radioactive waste management to re-examine all possibilities to find an acceptable solution to the nuclear waste problem. The 14 options considered range from firing nuclear waste into the sun, placing it in Antarctic ice sheets so it sinks by its own heat to the bedrock, putting it under the Earth's crust so it is sucked to the molten core and burying under the seabed. The government estimates that its stockpile of high-level nuclear waste will soon reach 500,000 tons. The committee of Homer Simpson wannabes is apparently still considering all 14 options and has requested an extension of its deadline from end 2005 to mid 2006. We look forward to reading its final report.
The Guardian, 14 April 2004


Nuclear industry looks to Asia for survival.


(April 16, 2004) 18 of the 31 nuclear power units currently under construction worldwide are located in Asia making the continent a haven for predatory European, North American and Russian suppliers. Following accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the number of new nuclear projects under development in the West was drastically reduced leaving the industry in peril. Now, the vultures are circling around Asia seeking new ground on an energy-poor continent. China is expected to build four 1,000 MW plants at a cost of US$ 6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple its nuclear capacity by 2020. The export of such sensitive technologies is prohibited in most nuclear supply countries but given the lack of business elsewhere, governments are re-evaluating their policies in order to secure lucrative contracts for their supplies. Even the U.S. is expected to ease its controls on China at this year and Germany is already considering selling China its Hanau plant.
AP, 10 April 2004; Reuters, 13 April 2004


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 30, 2004) After repeating an offer to freeze its nuclear programs in return for economic aid and an end to U.S. sanctions, North Korea announced that an unofficial American delegation, made up of congressional aides, former diplomats, a nuclear scientist and an academic, had visited the country and were given a tour of Yongbyon nuclear facility.

(602.5572) WISE Amsterdam - Despite the 5-day visit, the secretive communist state has dismissed hopes that it too would emulate Libya and scrap its own WMD programs. Such suggestions were described as the "folly of imbeciles" ignorant of the country's independent policies - copying Gaddafi is not an option. Instead the regime of Kim Jong-Il will continue to go it's own way and hope to achieve its main aims - having its cake and eating it. Unlike Libya, North Korea is not afraid of international isolation; in fact isolation is a key factor in sustaining its communist government so it cannot be persuaded to comply with the wishes of the international community on this point. (1)

Yet the invitation of the American delegation suggests that North Korea is desperate to find leverage with which to negotiate its way out of the current stalemate with the U.S. and perhaps speed up the progress of the stalled six-party talks (with Russia, China, Japan, the U.S. and South Korea). (2)

Although the delegations were given a guided tour of Yongbyon, they were of course not allowed to bring along monitoring equipment or remove any samples from the facility. The visitors were told that no clandestine program to enrich uranium existed although one member of the delegation, Jack Pritchard, former U.S. envoy to North Korea, had been present at unofficial talks in October 2002 where a senior official admitted that the country did have a program to enrich uranium. (3)

The issue of the existence of uranium enrichment has been a contentious issue and major sticking point in previous talks - China, Japan and South Korea indicated doubts in American assertions that the program exists. Some have suggested that there was a misunderstanding, that what the U.S. thought they heard was not what North Korea thought it said but there doesn't appear that either side is willing to meet half way on this point as yet. Pritchard has subsequently called on the CIA to share its intelligence in order to convince doubters and move negotiations on at the second round of the six-party expected to take place in February. (4) Given recent proof of fallibility where intelligence reports are concerned, that might not be an inviting prospect.

The former head of U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Siegried Hecker, was also among the delegates and commented after the visit that although he remained unconvinced that Pyongyang could actually convert its nuclear technology into a weapon, he was still concerned. Hecker confirmed that reprocessing plant was in good repair and that the North Korean scientists did have the technical expertise required. The 5 MW reactor was reportedly "operating smoothly", adding to the plutonium cache by 6 kg a year.

On 20 January, at a presentation given to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hecker reported that they'd been shown two glass jars (housed in a metal-lined wooden box), one said to contain 200 grams of plutonium metal and the other 150 grams of plutonium oxalate powder. Having examined and held (with gloved hands) one jar to get a feel for density and heat content, Hecker concluded that its appearance was consistent with that if plutonium metal. (5) The message brought back was that North Korea was anxious to have some sort of international confirmation to prove to the West, the U.S. especially, that it was not bluffing about its nuclear materials or its intentions.

Pyongyang was described as uncharacteristically bustling by Jack Pritchard, further giving rise to claims that an economic revival is being nurtured. In July 2003, reforms were introduced legalizing small private markets (with food, clothes, furniture and electronic goods on sale) and increasing wages. In a recently released study by the Institute for International Economics, the North Korean expert rated the chances of regime collapse at around 3%. (6)

London-based think-tank, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), launching a 120-page report on North Korea's nuclear programs on 21 January said that the window for diplomacy to rein in the country's weapons programs could close within the next few years as North Korea develops its capabilities. It suggests that a diplomatic solution be found to halt and eliminate communist states arsenal while it still only has a handful of weapons. It is currently believed that Pyongyang possesses enough material for up to five bombs but in a few years could have the capacity to produce a dozen bombs per year. Two new programs are proposed, one, a near-complete plutonium producing reactor and the other is suspected to be a uranium enrichment program although it is not clear how long it will take for these to go on-line - estimates range from 1-6 years. (7)

(1) Reuters, 9 January 2004
(2) The Christian Science Monitor, 12 January 2004
(3) The Washington Post, 13 January 2004
(4) Reuters, 15 January 2004)
(5) Taipei Times, 23 January 2004)
(6) USA Today, 16 January 2004)
(7) Reuters, 21 January 2004

WISE Amsterdam

North Korea's nuclear facilities

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(January 17, 2003) With the North Korean nuclear crisis high on the agenda for the international media, this article looks at the country's nuclear installations in order to provide a background to the crisis.

(581.5481) WISE Amsterdam - Nuclear technology has a long history in North Korea. According to one source, it began back in 1947 when the USSR sent geologists to North Korea to conduct surveys for uranium deposits, and uranium was mined and sent to the USSR before the start of the Korean War in 1950 (1).

North Korea set up its own Atomic Energy Research Institute in December 1952, while the Korean War was still underway. Following the armistice of 27 July 1953 that ended the Korean War (which the South Korean president refused to sign), nuclear activities in North Korea continued, with help from the USSR.

IRT-2000 research reactor
Help from the Soviet Union included training North Korean nuclear scientists at Soviet institutes from 1956 onwards, and was formalized in a 1959 nuclear cooperation treaty between the two countries. This was followed by the supply of an IRT-2000 research reactor (also called IRT-2M), which was started in 1965.

The IRT-2M, located in North Korea's largest nuclear complex at Yongbyon, did not produce electricity, and initially used low-enriched uranium (10% enrichment). However, in 1974, North Korean specialists modified the reactor, increasing its power from 2 to 8 megawatts thermal, and switching to bomb-grade uranium of 80% enrichment (2).

1974 was a key year for the North Korean nuclear program. As well as the uprate of the research reactor, a new Atomic Energy Act was enacted. President Kim Il Sung also obtained help from China, in the form of training for North Korean nuclear scientists and engineers (3). This was followed by North Korea joining the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 16 September 1974.

Isotope Production Laboratory
The next key installation to be built at the Yongbyon site was the Isotope Production Laboratory in 1975. North Korea later admitted that it had carried out small-scale reprocessing in this laboratory, separating 300 milligrams of plutonium from fuel that had been irradiated in the IRT-2000. While this was clearly far to little to make an atomic bomb, it demonstrated that North Korea had the technology to do so.

In 1978, the IRT-2000 was placed under IAEA safeguards inspections, which were supposed to prevent the irradiated fuel from the reactor being sent to the Isotope Production Laboratory for separation of plutonium.

5-megawatt gas-graphite reactor
In 1979 or 1980 (4), North Korea began constructing its first electricity-producing reactor, Yongbyon-1 (sometimes confusingly called Yongbyon-2). This is a gas-graphite reactor based on the design of UK's Calder Hall 50-megawatt reactors, for which design information was declassified in the 1950s (5). However, while its thermal power is around 30 megawatts, it only generates 5 megawatts of electricity - which raises a big question mark over recent claims (6) that the country needs this reactor's electricity since oil aid was stopped (7).

The reactor is the only operational electricity-generating nuclear reactor in North Korea. It went critical on 14 August 1984 according to one source, 4 or 14 August 1985 according to others, and began regular operations in 1986 (8). It uses natural uranium, which has two advantages for North Korea. Firstly, North Korea has its own uranium mines but - back in the 1980's - had no uranium enrichment facilities. The use of natural uranium therefore reduced the country's dependence on the Soviet Union in line with Kim Il-Sung's policy of Juche (national self-reliance).

Secondly - and more worryingly - reactors using natural-uranium fuel are more suitable for producing plutonium for weapons use. In addition, the magnesium cladding of the Magnox fuel used in the reactor (just as in the UK's Calder Hall) makes it easier to reprocess (9).


As the North Korean nuclear crisis continues, it is remarkable how many similarities exist with an earlier crisis that led up to the signing of the "Agreed Framework" in 1994.

Then, as now, the crisis followed U.S. allegations that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. It led to a war of words, as the U.S. threatened to attack North Korea, while North Korea responded by threatening to turn the city of Seoul in South Korea into a "storm of fire".

However, after the intervention of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the rhetoric became calmer and two sides entered into talks. These talks did not always go well, and they were interrupted by the death of North Korea's president Kim Il Sung, who was subsequently declared to be the country's "eternal president".

The talks eventually resumed, with the North Koreans saying they would keep the promise of a nuclear freeze which Kim Il Sung had made in his last days. They ended with the "Agreed Framework" which was signed in Geneva, Switzerland on 21 October 1994.

This "replace-nuclear-with nuclear" agreement basically laid down that North Korea would give up its existing nuclear program in return for the construction of two Western-designed reactors. These reactors would be "more proliferation-resistant", but would still produce plutonium - in much larger quantities than North Korea's existing reactors. As the November 1999 report of the North Korea Advisory Group to the U.S. Congress pointed out: "Such plutonium, while not weapons-grade, can be used to produce nuclear weapons and does not present an overwhelming barrier to those pursuing a dedicated nuclear weapons program."

This gave rise to a crisis in the early 1990s, following reports that the reactor was shut down in 1989 for about 70 days. The U.S. claimed that the shutdown enabled refueling and reprocessing of the irradiated fuel to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons. North Korea only admitted removing damaged fuel rods and extracting about 90 grams of plutonium (10).

The crisis was resolved by the 1994 "Agreed Framework" (11), under which North Korea agreed to stop the reactor and halt construction of two other gas-graphite reactors. In return, an international organization, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was set up to build two light-water reactors in Kumho, and supply North Korea with fuel oil until the reactors are operational.

Recently, North Korea said it was withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty so that it can re-start the reactor to "protect its people from the winter" (12). However, the reactor's 5-megawatt output - less than a typical small wind farm - would only supply a tiny fraction of the country's electricity needs.

50-megawatt gas-graphite reactor
Given the tiny output of the 5-megawatt gas-graphite reactor, it is not surprising that North Korea began building larger reactors. First of these was another reactor at Yongbyon intended to generate 50 megawatts of electricity - the same as the UK's Calder Hall and Chapelcross reactors. Construction reportedly began in 1984 or 1985 though US intelligence did not detect it until 1989 (13). It is not clear if the technology was copied from the UK's Calder Hall or France's G-2 gas-graphite reactor (14). Construction was frozen under the 1994 "agreed framework".

200-megawatt gas-graphite reactor
In 1989, North Korea also started to build a 200-megawatt reactor at Taechon, reportedly based on the French G-2 gas-graphite reactor (15). Again, construction of the reactor was halted under the 1994 "Agreed Framework".

Two 1000-megawatt reactors
In return for stopping the 5-megawatt reactor and halting construction of the 50 and 200-megawatt reactors, North Korea was to be supplied with two 1000-megawatt "light-water reactors" under the 1994 "Agreed Framework". The site chosen was Kumho, which according to one source was originally selected in 1990 for construction of four Russian VVER-440 reactors. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the North Korean regime first wanted to design and build its own reactors on the site, but in 1994 agreed that KEDO would build two Western-designed light-water reactors (i.e. PWR or BWR) on the site (16).

North Korea has repeatedly complained of delays in the construction - the reactors were to be completed in 2003, but the first concrete was not poured until 2002. The delays mean that even before the current crisis, delivery of key nuclear components was not expected until 2005. This probably explains why there seems to be no hurry to stop the Kumho project (17).

Reprocessing facilities
North Korea first began separating plutonium on an experimental scale in the Isotope Production Laboratory at Yongbyon, which was built around 1965. This laboratory has never been under IAEA safeguards, even though North Korea admitted in 1992 that around 300mg of plutonium had been separated in the laboratory in 1975 (18).

The real concern, however, is the "Radiochemistry Laboratory". North Korea said that this building, whose construction was never completed, was intended for "training specialists in the separation of plutonium, and for handling nuclear waste". However, this "six-story building, approximately 180m in length, 20m in width, and about the size of two football fields" is clearly too large to be just a training facility, and the IAEA concluded after a 1992 inspection that it was a reprocessing plant. Construction was halted under the 1994 "Agreed Framework" when it was placed under IAEA safeguards (19).

Uranium program
Still, even with the reprocessing facilities and reactors "frozen", North Korea had another option for building nuclear weapons: mining its own indigenous uranium reserves and enriching the uranium to bomb-grade. The recent crisis was prompted by allegations that North Korea had started a uranium-based weapons program (20). Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan, who started Pakistan's nuclear weapons program based on centrifuge uranium enrichment technology from Urenco Netherlands where he once worked (21), was alleged to have supplied the same technology to North Korea (22). Khan denied these allegations (23).

However, it is worth remembering that a November 1999 report to the US Congress (24) had already warned of this possibility. Under "Uranium enrichment", the report stated: "Among the many mysteries surrounding North Korea's nuclear program are its extensive uranium mining and milling activities. North Korea's interest in uranium dates back several decades, and North Korea is known to have attempted to acquire uranium enrichment equipment" (25).

The report continued: "The capability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade would provide North Korea with a second path to nuclear weapons and, if realized, could add a dangerous new dimension to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development activities".

Nuclear waste
Finally, it is perhaps worth remembering one of the sticking points that the 1994 "Agreed Framework" failed to resolve: the nuclear waste issue. In 1993, the IAEA demanded to inspect two suspected nuclear waste sites in the Yongbyon complex (an old nuclear waste site and the so-called "Building 500"). North Korea replied by deploying tanks around the sites and has consistently refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit these sites. Under the terms of the "Agreed Framework," North Korea is required to accept IAEA inspections of these sites when a significant portion of the Kumho project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components (26).

The question remains as to whether the current crisis will deal with this outstanding waste issue. It underlines the nuclear industry's unsolved problem with nuclear waste: the technology to reprocess it to produce plutonium for bombs is tried and tested, but no known technology can stop it from remaining lethally radioactive for thousands of years.

The best solution for North Korea is not to finish the Kumho reactors, which would generate even larger quantities of waste; nor is it to re-start old reactors which are better at making plutonium than electricity. As a WISE News Communique article concluded in 2001, the most effective strategy is an integrated coordinated effort to rebuild existing energy infrastructure, develop alternative energy resources, increase energy efficiency and meet humanitarian needs (27).


  2. (However, other sources say the reactor's power was increased to 4 megawatts thermal in 1974 and 8 megawatts thermal in 1977.)
  4. 1979 according to or 1980 according to
  5. WISE News Communique 411.4072, "DPRK: Eurochemic and Calder Hall clones"
  6. For example, Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov, quoted by the North Korean state news agency KCNA on 10 January 2003
  7. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 577.5460, "North Korea: oil aid stopped"
  9. WISE News Communique 411.4072, "DPRK: Eurochemic and Calder Hall clones"
  12. North Korean government site, 14 January 2003
  17. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 577.5460, "North Korea: oil aid stopped"
  20. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 575, "In brief"
  21. WISE News Communique 499/500.4932, "Uranium enrichment: No capacity growth in 20 years"
  22. The Tribune (Chandigarh, India), 9 January 2003
  23., 9 January 2003
  24. Report of the North Korea Advisory Group (
  25. The report quotes Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 August 1999, p21 as a source for the statement that North Korea had attempted to acquire uranium enrichment equipment.
  26. and
  27. WISE News Communique 545.5260, "What is the best solution/future for North Korea?"

Contact: WISE Amsterdam


North Korea: oil aid stopped

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 22, 2002) U.S. oil aid to North Korea has been stopped after North Korea admitted it had an illicit uranium-based nuclear weapons program. This throws into doubt the related Kumho nuclear power plant project, and highlights the spectacular failure of the bizarre "replace-nuclear-with-nuclear" strategy for stopping nuclear proliferation.

(577.5460) WISE Amsterdam - The November oil shipment, currently underway, will continue, but it will be the last. That was the message given on 15 November at a conference of diplomats from South Korea, the US, the European Union and Japan. A senior South Korean government official commented, "I hope this message will be heard by North Korea".

It may seem surprising that this "message" was not sent earlier. After all, when U.S. President Bush, in his State of the Union address of 29 January 2002, claimed that North Korea, Iran and Iraq constitute an "axis of evil", it looked like U.S. aid to North Korea was over. Yet, on 1 April 2002, Bush signed a memorandum authorizing US$95 million in oil for the "axis of evil" country, determining that it was "vital to the national security interests of the United States" that the money was released (1).



North Korea, Iran and Iraq have little in common politically, so it seemed strange that President Bush described them as an "axis of evil". One thing they do have in common, however, is the attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, often under the guise of a nuclear power program.

The U.S. and Russia continue to disagree over Russia's help in the construction of a nuclear power station at Bushehr in Iran. U.S. officials now claim that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program under the guise of "nuclear fuel cycle facilities". John Wolf, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, has accused Iran of purchasing "esoteric technologies which only really make sense as part of a weapons development program".

In the case of Iraq, the UN weapons inspection team is led by nuclear experts. Dr. Hans Blix, who heads the inspection team, campaigned in 1980 to retain Sweden's nuclear energy program. Despite Blix's campaign, Sweden decided to phase out nuclear energy. Nevertheless, he was rewarded for his efforts, being made Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1981, a post he retained until 1997. During his directorship, Iraq managed to hide its nuclear weapons program from the IAEA. Dr. Blix admitted that "the IAEA was fooled by the Iraqis" but claimed that "the lesson was learned".

He is joined on the latest mission to Iraq by Mohammed El-Baradei, current IAEA Director-General. The presence of the two men serves to highlight the IAEA's sometimes contradictory roles: on the one hand, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while on the other hand promoting the "peaceful" use of nuclear technology.

Besides nuclear weapons, the weapons inspection team is also looking for biological or chemical weapons., 20 November 2002; BBC, 19 September and 18 November 2002

The oil was, however, only part of the aid program administered by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). KEDO's main aim is to build two new nuclear power reactors in Kumho, North Korea, in exchange for North Korea agreeing to abandon its weapons program. The oil was intended as a stopgap to enable North Korea to generate electricity until the nuclear power station is complete (2).

This bizarre "replace-nuclear-with-nuclear" program turned out to be a spectacular failure when North Korea admitted continuing a nuclear weapons program based on high-enriched uranium despite agreeing to stop developing nuclear weapons (3).

The international response to North Korea's revelations about its weapons program has focused on the oil shipments, since "key nuclear components" of the Kumho reactors were not planned to be delivered until 2005.

Yet, at the same time, the question arises of how North Korea has obtained uranium enrichment technology. While it seems clear that Pakistan provided the technology, controversy arose over the Bush administration's claim that Pakistan assisted North Korea only three months ago (4). This would imply that Pakistan had aided North Korea after Bush gave his "axis of evil" speech - an allegation which Pakistan has vigorously denied (5).

The situation was compounded by a recent confusion when a North Korean radio statement on 17 November appeared to admit that the country possesses nuclear weapons. The following day (18 November), the statement was repeated but with one extra syllable, changing it to a statement that the country "is entitled to have" nuclear weapons (6).

Non-Proliferation Treaty
North Korea's admission also has far-reaching implications for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Unlike its promise to KEDO, which is not legally binding, North Korea has clearly broken international law by violating the NPT. If North Korea were allowed to get away with this, the whole future of the NPT would be thrown into doubt (7).

In retrospect, it seems crazy that anyone could think that providing civil nuclear technology was the best way of stopping North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Yet a similar idea is embodied in the two functions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): to prevent nuclear proliferation while promoting the "peaceful" use of nuclear technology. The North Korea affair highlights once again that "Atoms for Peace" doesn't work, and that in the nuclear age, security means ending the nuclear age (8).


  1. White House press release, 2 April 2002
  2. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 566.5390, "U.S. approves $95 million aid for 'axis of evil' country"
  3. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 575, "In Brief"
  4. The Washington Post, 13 November 2002
  5. Reuters, 14 November 2002
  6. BBC, 18 November 2002
  7. Far Eastern Economic Review, 21 November 2002
  8. NIRS Nuclear Monitor, December 2001

Contact: NIRS or WISE Amsterdam


Windpower project in North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(August 7, 1998) A 15kw-level wind-power plant will be established in North Korea with the support of Nautilus, an American research institute. The electricity will mainly be used for a hospital. The project will be completed this year. Although the capacity is very limited, it is a start and opens possibilities.

(495.4893) WISE Amsterdam - The WISE News Communique doesn't write often about wind-power, but sometimes we come across a story we think is so interesting, we have to write about it. This is the case with this story. The seven windturbines are installed 90 km northwest of the capital Pyongyang at Onchon County, a flat plain that has been plagued by frequent floods. The village grows rice on reclaimed mudflats. Last year, a twenty-five foot tidal wave overwhelmed the dykes and flooded the fields with salt water. The village is still recovering from this blow. This pilot wind-power project will power a medical clinic and school lights. The villages medical clinic in particular will benefit from this project. The clinic was very basic. "We will install reliable electric power, efficient lightbulbs and a refrigerator for vaccinations, and equipment to cut traditional herbal medicines and to make pills out of them," Peter Hayes, executive-director of the Nautilus Institute, said.

The project was conceved last November when the Berkely based Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development, invited some high-ranking North-Korean officials to the US. Among those that came in December where Choi Chang- hoon, secretary-general of the North Korean Anti-Nuclear Peace Committee. The delegation toured various energy-related facilities and power plants in the US and talked over the North Korean energy problems with US government officials.
In May a first shipment of equipment was delivered, when an international team of wind-power experts were visiting North Korea. The first wind turbine tower was succesfully constructed. "Upon arrival in this rural village, the tension in the air was palpable. For decades, these people have been taught that Americans are the enemy. Here we were in their vegetable fields raising a tower to generate electricity for their houses, a kindergarden, and a medical clinic. It took everyone a few days to overcome their initial fear and distrust, but after five days of working shoulder-to-shoulder, we left knowing that we have established a foundation of goodwill and trust," Peter Hayes said. Rural North Korea is highly militarized. To be working cooperatively at all in such a sensitive area was amazing. The team were given full access to all the facilities and sites they requested in order to fulfill their operating requirements in this project. "This shows that the North Koreans are fully committed to the success of this project," he stated.

The private project, funded by the W. Alton Jones Foundation in Virginia, is the first American non-governmental attempt to engage cooperatively with North Korea. Until now, non-governmental organizations have been limited by both the American and the North Korean governments to delivering food aid to North Korea. "It is time to engage North Korea in cooperative assistance projects, not just give them food aid", asserted Hayes. "Meeting humanitarian energy needs will make it easier to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation in the Korean Peninsula".
At the website of the Nautilus Institute a very interesting report is available, called: 'The Prospects for Energy Efficiency Improvements in the DPRK: Evaluating and Exploring the Options'.


  • The Korean Herald, 20 March 1998
  • Nautilus update on windpower project, 9 and 20 May 1998

Contact: Nautilus Institute, Dr. Peter Hayes; 1831 Second Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1902, USA
Tel: +1-510-204-9296; Fax: +1-510-204-9298


Not enough money for LWRs in North Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 8, 1998) The Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) project agreed upon in December 1995 largely consists of two parts: construction of two 1,000-MW Light-Water Reactors and the provision of heavy fuel oil (50,000 tons annually) to North Korea until the two reactors are completed. However, the financial crises in Asia can jeopardize the agreement.

(491.4875) WISE Amsterdam- Since the North Korea-US agreement in December 1995, the South Korean government and domestic nuclear- related businesses have consistently described the accord as a "stepping stone for reunification". The official reason of course is the prevention of the North's nuclear ambitions but what also makes it interesting for the South is the possible export of domestically made light-water reactors.
At the time the "Framework" was signed, it was agreed upon independently that the US should play a "leading" role in paying for the heavy fuel oil, and Korea would play a "central" role in LWR funding. US government officials explicitly told the US Congress that the US would not pay for LWRs, and it was in this light that a skeptical Congress backed down from giving its blessing to the nuclear deal. The US Congress has been skeptical about this "nuclear for nuclear" deal from the very beginning.

South Korea, now facing financial problems due to the severe economic crisis, tries to persuade the US and the other partners in the KEDO deal (for example, the European Union and Japan) from bringing in more money for the two planned Light-Water Reactors. Given the skeptical attitude of the US Congress, it is highly unlikely that the US would suddenly change its position and offer to join in, in the LWR funding.

On May 1, the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Seoul. On the occasion, Seoul and Washington are expected to finalize the burden-shares debates. She warned South Korea and Japan that North Korea may resume its nuclear weapons program if a pledge to provide Pyongyang with fuel oil and nuclear power technology is not met. But a solution has not been found: "The basis structure of this [1995] agreement and its financing is still intact but the details have not yet been nailed down," one US official said. But details are what it's all about.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the KEDO does not manage to find the money--US$5.2 billion, according to the KEDO Board, in November 1997. Will the US go on with the provision of fuel oil? They promised to do so until the new reactors were installed.
There is quite a big chance that despite the assurance of new President Kim Dae Jung to meet the obligations under KEDO, South Korea would not be able to come up with the funding for LWRs. US Ambassador to South Korea Steven Bosworth who also served as the first executive director of KEDO, has publicly said that since the financial crisis, KEDO members are talking to reduce the initial burden of South Korea. The emphasis here is on the word "initial". Quite likely, in an attempt to keep the KEDO arrangement going, the US would help South Korea out in the first years to come but still end up paying most, if not all, in the end. Even so, the US has a problem for the very near future: the US government budget for the 1999 fiscal year does not list allocations for the KEDO deal at all.

Meanwhile, criticism is growing, mainly in the US. Victor Gilinsky, the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote an article in the Washington Post in which he argues that "since nobody is going to pay for LWRs", the deal should be replaced with a bidding to find cheaper alternatives such as coal-fired plants.
Also, James Liley, former US ambassador to South Korea, recently contributed an article to Newsweek calling for the renegotiation of the agreed-upon framework to replace LWRs with coal-fired plants. The US ambassador, Steven Bosworth, said in an interview in a Korean weekly magazine that if North Korea asks for coal-fired plants instead of LWRs, KEDO members would "seriously consider" the option.

In general, this is also the option supported by the leading environmental organizations in South Korea. Even more environmental sound seems the option of efficiency improvement; according to South Korean researchers, the rate of electricity grid loss in the North is between 30% to 50%. Improvement is relatively easy and far cheaper than building new (nuclear) production facilities.


  • AFP, 12 November 1997
  • KFEM News, fall 1997
  • Korean Herald, 2 February 1998
  • Press release, Green Korea United, 12 February 1998
  • Korea Time, 17 April 1998
  • Reuter, 1 May 1998

Contact: Green Korea, 385-108 Hapjeong-dong Mapo-ku, Seoul, South Korea. Tel: +82-2-325-5525; Fax: +82-2-325-5677

Taiwan N-waste: North Korea or Marshalls?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 26, 1997) On January 11, Taiwan signed an agreement with North Korea about the storage of nuclear waste in a North Korean waste storage site. First shipments were expected during the next months. Until now no shipment has taken place and there are rumors that the deal is off due to political pressure.

(478.4748) WISE Amsterdam -During the 5th No Nukes Asia Forum (September 1-7 1997 in Manila, Philippines), one of the main topics was the announced shipments of the Taiwanese radwaste to North Korea (see WISE NC 465.4622: 'Taiwan: Radwaste to North Korea'). There have been lots of international protest against this deal, putting much pressure on the Taiwanese government.

Although not totally clear the situation is mainly as follows: the Taiwanese Atomic Energy Council (AEC) has placed the application of Taipower on hold, because "the construction of the North Korean facility is not yet complete". This is the official reason, but the Taiwanese Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), the local leading environmental organization, says this means most likely the end of the waste deal. Renata Tsu, campaigner for TEPU, said: "They are looking for an excuse to leave the option of North Korea without loss of face. They knew from the beginning that the site in North Korea would never meet any international standard."

Because of the international pressure on the Taiwanese government (especially by the United States and China), the TEPU does not expect the shipments to take place. They now think Taipower is looking to the Marshall Islands as a possible internationally acceptable dumpsite. Taipower is in a hurry. It promised the Yami people, living on Orchid Island, location of the countryþs current but too small storage site, to remove the nuclear waste from the island by 2002. Despite payments of quite large amounts of money to local village mayors and citizens, it has been impossible to identify any other possible location in Taiwan itself.

On September 7, a small group of Greenpeace activists protested in downtown Taipei against the plan to ship 200,000 barrels of radwaste to North Korea. The protestors, dressed as barrels of radioactive waste, unfurled two banners, one in English and the other in Chinese, which read, "No nuclear waste export." They also distributed leaflets to passers-by.


  • Current developments of nuclear energy policies and the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, 1997, paper presented by the Green Party of Taiwan, during the 5th No Nukes Asia Forum, Manila, September 1-7 1997
  • AFP, 7 September 1997

Contact: Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), No. 29, Lane 128, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd., Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: +886-2-3636 419; Fax: +886-2-3623 458