Taecheon 200MWe Nuclear Reactor

View All North Korea Facilities

Last Updated: September 30, 2011
Other Name: 태천200MWe 원자력발전소; Taecheon 200MW Graphite-Moderated Reactor (태천 200MW 흑연감속로); Taecheon Nuclear Reactor (태천원자로); Nuclear Reactor No. 4 (제4호원자로); Taecheon Machine No. 1 (태천1호기); T'aech'ŏn 200MWe Nuclear Power Plant
Location: Taecheon-gun (태천군), Pyeonganbuk-do (평안북도), North Korea
Subordinate To: General Department of Atomic Energy (원자력총국), Cabinet (내각)
Size: 200MWe, about 800MWth
Facility Status: unfinished, abandoned

North Korea began construction of a 200MWe nuclear reactor in Taecheon-gun in 1989, and expected to complete construction by 1996. The reactor design was modeled after the French G-2 reactor, which France developed in the 1950s primarily for plutonium production. [1] The Taecheon 200MWe reactor was designed to use graphite as a moderator, and CO2 as a coolant. [2] This reactor design is an efficient source for weapon-grade plutonium. The reactor could have been capable of producing about 220kg of plutonium per year, [3] but the reactor’s construction was frozen under the terms of the Agreed Framework of October 1994. [4] The agreement also provided for the dismantlement of this facility after the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) completed two light water nuclear reactors at Sinpo, Hamgyeongnam-do. However, the 1994 Agreed Framework broke down in 2003 and the construction was never completed. The KEDO arrangement was eventually abandoned in 2006. [5]

Despite periodic threats to restart the construction of the Taecheon reactor, such as Lee Geun (리근), then head of North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ announcement that North Korea would complete Taecheon’s construction in 2-3 years, no real progress was made. [6] The Six-Party Talks process which began in 2003 rekindled hopes that the reactor would be permanently disabled. The reactor was a subject of disablement discussions within this context in 2007, when China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States agreed to an “Action Plan.” Later that year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was able to implement monitoring and verification measures for the shutdown of several facilities at the Yongbyon complex as well as the 200MWe reactor at Taecheon. However, this agreement also broke down and inspectors and their surveillance equipment were forced to leave in April 2009. [7] According to the IAEA and independent scientists at Stanford University, the 200MWe reactor remains unfinished and no significant changes have been made to it since 2002. [8] In November 2010, Siegfried Hecker returned to North Korea where he was told by the senior technical official at Yongbyon that the 200MWe reactor had become “ruined concrete structures and iron scrap.” [9]

Sources:
[1] Mun Seong-gyu, “'북핵타결' 北 핵시설 현황 ['Nuclear Breakthrough' Current Status of North Korea’s Nuclear Facilities],” Yonhap News Agency, February 13, 2007, www.yonhap news.co.kr.
[2] Lee U-seung, “北 핵시설 현황은 [Current Status of North Korea’s Nuclear Facilities?],” Segye Ilbo, March 27, 2011, http://www.segye.com.
[3] Plutonium production capacity is derived under the assumptions that 1MWth-day results in 1g of Pu, and that the reactor would operate at a capacity factor of 75 percent. Therefore, 800 MWth X 365 days X 75% = 219kg.
[4] Mun Seong-gyu, “'북핵타결' 北 핵시설 현황 ['Nuclear Breakthrough' Current Status of North Korea’s Nuclear Facilities],” Yonhap News Agency, February 13, 2007, www.yonhap news.co.kr.
[5] “KEDO: Promoting Peace and Stability on the Korean Peninsula and Beyond,” Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, www.kedo.org; Yu Hyeon-min, “한전 보관 '北경수로 기자재' 청산협의 [KEPCO’s LWR Equipment Settling Discussion],” Yonhap News Agency, November 8, 2009, www.yonhap news.co.kr.
[6] Ham Bo-hyeon, “’영변.태천 원자로 2-3년 내 완공’ '北리근 국장' [‘Yongbyon, Taecheon’s Reactor will be Completed in 2~3 Years’ 'North, Chief Lee'],” Yonhap News Agency, July 13, 2005, www.yonhapnews.co.kr.
[7] “Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Board of Governors, General Conference, IAEA, GOV/2010/45-GC(54)/12, August 31, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[8] “Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK),” Board of Governors, General Conference, IAEA, GOV/2007/45-GC(51)/19, August 17, 2007, www.iaea.org; Siegfried S. Hecker, “Report on North Korean Nuclear Program,” Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, November 15, 2006, http://iis-db.stanford.edu.
[9] Siegfried S, Hecker, "A Return Trip to North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Complex," Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, November 20, 2010, http://iis-db.stanford.edu.

Country Profile
Flag of North Korea
North Korea

This article provides an overview of North Korea's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.