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Korea buys CANDU reactor

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 26, 1991) Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) signed a contract on 27 December 1990 to supply a 700-MW CANDU reactor to South Korea.

(351.3490) WISE Amsterdam - The sale is the first since one was sold to Rumania in 1980. the project is expected to cost Cdn $1.2 billion. According to the Canadian Nuclear Awareness Project spokes-person, Irene Kock, "The federal (Canadian) government is giving AECL Cdn $224 million per year in subsidies, and historically, the company has received over Cdn $14 billion, so the Korean deal doesn't even come remotely close to making the company profitable".

Construction on the reactor, Wolsong-2, is expected to begin in 1992 and be completed in 1997. It will be located at the same site as an earlier CANDU (Wolsong-1, a 600 MW reactor sold to South Korea in 1975), on the southeast seacoast.

The original Wolsong-1 deal was marked by scandal, including bribery and attempts by South Korea to manufacture nuclear weapons. It was known at the time that South Korea was attempting to purchase a reprocessing plant from France that would have allowed it to produce plutonium for bombs from spent reactor fuel. In June 1975, General Park Chung Hee, the South Korean dictator at the time, said that if US support weakened, South Korea would need nuclear weapons, and, he declared, "We have the capacity to do it." In the wake of the scandal that had followed the explosion of a nuclear bomb by India in 1974 -- using Canadian-supplied nuclear technology -- Canada signed a tougher new nuclear cooperation agreement with South Korea in January 1976. It was only later, however, that US pressure resulted in Korea abandoning its attempts to obtain reprocessing technology.

It was also revealed in the 1976 Auditor General's Report that Shoul Eisenberg of Tel Aviv, who had acted as an "agent" for AECL in the Korean deal, had received Cdn $18 million in unaccountable payments from AECL. The reactor sale had been worth Cdn $400 million in total. The Canadian House of Commons Public Accounts Committee launched an investigation. However, the Committee's own Liberal majority voted against the right to subpoena. AECL officials refused to testify, or to open their books for inspection. The Committee concluded that "some of the payments were indeed used for illegal or corrupt purposes", but apparently, the case didn't go much further.

The reactor deal was also controversial because of widespread human rights abuses in South Korea. Unrest there continues today.

Source: Nuclear Awareness News (Canada), Winter 1990/1991, p.10.

Contact: Nuclear Awareness Project, Box 2331, Oshawa, Ontario, L1H 7V4, tel: (416) 725-1565.