Go to contents

North Korea Ships 400 Nuclear Fuel Rods

Posted December. 26, 2002 22:30,   


North Korea is known to have shipped 400 new fuel rods from the fuel rod manufacturing facility to the 5MW reactor in Yongbyon on Christmas Day.

To reactivate the reactor, North Korea needs 8,000 new fuel rods. North Korea reportedly retains additional 20,000 fuel rods that suffice to reload the reactor after the first stage of operation is over.

One South Korean senior official confirmed yesterday, "Currently, the 5MW reactor does not have a storage place enough to accommodate fuel rods in need. Thus, North is like to move some rods to the reactor first. Then, it will start reloading it. At first, only 2-3 North Korean technicians were observed working on the reactor. Now, scores of them are working on it."

If North reactivates the reactor, it will obtain new spent fuel rods in 6-7 months. From the rods, North will be able to extract 6-8 kg of plutonium, an amount sufficient to produce a warhead after treatment. Yesterday, the South Korean government had a security meeting presided by President Kim Dae Jung. Also on hand was Rep. Yoo Jae-gun, who is one of the top aids to President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.

In the meeting, President Kim directed, "North Korea`s nuclear issue is a matter of such an importance that could determine the future of the Korean Peninsula. That is why we should play a leading role. We have to first beef up cooperation with our allies including the United States, Japan, China, Russia and the EU. Then, once their cooperation and support is secured, we should enhance our position over the issue."

In a luncheon with voluntary groups like the Korean Red Cross, Kim stressed, "We will not repeat what happened in 1994. Then, we remained outsider in resolution of the nuclear crisis, but paid hundreds of millions of dollar for construction of the light-water reactor." He added, "For the remaining 2 months of my term, I will closely consult with President-elect Roh [in coping with the situation]."

In the meanwhile, Associate Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade Lee Tae-shik had a meeting with a Japanese senior official in Tokyo yesterday, and discussed various issues and measures regarding North Korea`s resumption of its nuclear program. South Korean government plans to hold another senior-level talks with the United States to discuss the nuclear issue.

Seung-Mo Yoon Young-Sik Kim ysmo@donga.com spear@donga.com