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November 9, 2005
NoKos Restarting Construction On New Reactor

The North Koreans appear to have started working on their once-abandoned reactor site, and have said that they could complete the 50-megawatt reactor within two years. This new development belies the agreement reached two months ago, when Pyongyang announced its intention to stop all pursuit of plutonium development:

North Korea has said it plans to finish building a 50-megawatt nuclear reactor in as little as two years, allowing it to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 10 weapons annually, according to the first public report of an unofficial U.S. delegation that visited Pyongyang in August.

The new reactor would represent a tenfold leap in North Korea's ability to produce fuel for nuclear weapons, which could give it significant leverage in talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear programs. North Korea tentatively agreed in September to "abandon" its programs, but the talks -- which resume today in Beijing -- must still resolve how quickly Pyongyang gives up its weapons and what types of incentives it will receive. ...

North Korea has said it has an urgent need for electric power, and Ri told Hecker the electricity generated by the 50-megawatt reactor would go into North Korea's electrical grid. Hecker said Ri acknowledged that such graphite-moderated reactors are not very efficient for electricity, but make very good weapons-grade plutonium.

The Institute for Science and International Security said that in June 2005, commercial satellite imagery did not show significant construction activity at the 50-megawatt site. But a more recent photograph from Sept. 11 indicated preparation for construction, including restoring a building near the reactor.

Rather than an overt act in defying the previous agreement, the North Koreans probably want the rest of the six-nation panel to give Pyonyang further concessions to stop construction -- likely hard currency, as the Kim regime has its insatiable appetites. It still should give pause to the negotiators who worked with Pyongyang to get the interim agreement, as well as China as a neighbor to the unstable Kims. The move underscores the necessity and the difficulty of wrapping up the details of an agreement quickly, and to start the verification process immediately afterwards.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 9, 2005 5:57 AM

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» North Korea finishing nuclear reactor from East Asia Watch
According to a Washington Post report, North Korea is rushing to finish a 50-megawatt nuclear reactor in the next two years. Korean statements to that effect have been corroborated by satellite imagery: …in June 2005, commercial satellite imag... [Read More]

Tracked on November 9, 2005 12:14 PM


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