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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