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North Korea Airs Plan to Activate Light-Water Reactor

(Nov. 11) -Unused nuclear fuel rods in storage at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex in 2009. Pyongyang on Thursday said it would soon activate a new light-water reactor (AP Photo/South Korean Foreign Ministry). (Nov. 11) -Unused nuclear fuel rods in storage at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex in 2009. Pyongyang on Thursday said it would soon activate a new light-water reactor (AP Photo/South Korean Foreign Ministry).

North Korea on Thursday announced it would activate in the near future an experimental light-water reactor constructed wholly from indigenous expertise and machinery, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 10).

"The day is near at hand when a light-water reactor entirely based on domestic resources and technology will come into operation in the D.P.R.K.," the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency said.

One year ago, visiting U.S. nuclear-weapon experts received a tour of the unfinished facility and an operational uranium enrichment plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex (see GSN, Nov. 22, 2010). U.S. expert Siegfried Hecker, who took part in the tour, estimated the reactor would be capable of producing 25 to 30 megawatts of electricity when finished.

Hecker said North Korean officials were aiming to have the nuclear reactor completed in 2012, a date he said "appears much too optimistic."

The expert said the uranium plant and the light-water reactor were apparently intended to produce atomic energy.

Pyongyang insists its uranium enrichment program is nonmilitary in nature, but the United States and other governments are highly skeptical of the assertion. The uranium enrichment process can produce civilian fuel as well as weapons-grade material (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Nov. 10).

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