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N. Korea Lacks Tech to Build Light-Water Reactors

Posted April. 15, 2009 07:51,   


North Korea has threatened to build light-water nuclear reactors again but most experts say Pyongyang is bluffing to gain an advantage in negotiations with the United States.

This is because the North has no economic or technological capacity to build such a reactor on its own.

Jun Bong-keun, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul, told The Dong-A Ilbo yesterday, “North Korea has no capacity to build a light-water nuclear reactor on its own. It is also impossible in many respects for the North to purchase and operate light-water reactor parts from other countries.”

Above all, the construction of such reactors requires state-of-the-art technology, something which the North sorely lacks. Jun said only the U.S., Japan, Russia, France and South Korea hold the capacity to build light water reactors.

If the North cannot build the reactor on its own, it will have to buy parts and equipment from abroad, a strategy also seen as difficult to implement.

More than anything, Pyongyang has no money. The cost for two reactors that were scheduled to be built in Sinpo in North Korea’s North Hamkyong Province was five billion U.S. dollars, far more than the estimated 500 million dollars the North spent to launch its satellite Kwangmyongsong-2.

North Korea’s annual budget for this year is also just 3.45 billion dollars. Even if the North has the money, no country will export the required technology and equipment to the rouge state.

As such, the North is likely to demand assistance for its purported construction of the reactors or electricity from South Korea in return for giving up an “industrial structure to secure independent nuclear energy generation.” Pyongyang will probably demand discussion of the reactors if and when its talks with Washington resume.