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NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation




Peter Hayes


November 16/93

 paper to the symposium

"United States and North Korea: What Next?"

 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Washington DC

Copyright  Nautilus Institute


The transfer of light water reactor (LWR) technology to North 
Korea (DPRK) emerged as an important issue at the third round of 
high-level talks between North Korea and the United States held 
in Geneva in July 1993.  In section I of this paper, I provide 
some background to the negotiations to date over this issue.  In 
section II, I analyze the relative proliferation intensity of the 
DPRK developing its present nuclear fuel cycle versus "trading it 
in" for a light water reactor fuel cycle.  In section III, I 
appraise nuclear power technology in terms of the DPRK's energy 
economy.  In section IV, I review the implications of the likely 
poor economics of nuclear power in the DPRK, and examine various 
constraints to transferring LWR technology to the DPRK.  In 
section V, I discuss critical outstanding issues that must be 
resolved before LWR technology is transferred to the DPRK.


The DPRK has developed its nuclear fuel cycle capability for many 
years and has obtained substantial assistance from the 
international community (via the IAEA/UNDP) to this end, 
especially for uranium prospecting.  The specific issue of DPRK 
cooperation with South Korea (ROK) on nuclear research and 
development has been raised also in the Korean bilateral 
commissions pursuant to the 1991 non-aggression declaration, 
albeit with little progress.  

The North Koreans denounced a South Korean proposal to build a 
nuclear power plant on or near the Demilitarised Zone to be run 
jointly.  But in June 1992, they revealed an interest in light 
water reactors in discussions with the Director General of the 
International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix.  Blix had told the 
North Koreans that their reactors were outmoded and uneconomic. 
In response, North Korean officials recognized the economic 
advantage of shifting to light water reactors (1).

After the DPRK announced its intention to withdraw from the 
Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in March 1993, interest 
intensified in this possibility. In my discussions with senior 
North Korean officials in May 1993, I asked three questions:

1) Would North Korea cooperate with South Korea on joint 
development of peaceful nuclear power technology? 

2) Would North Korea agree to putting its plutonium (along with 
that of South Korea) under joint North-South Korean control?

3) Would North Korea change to light water reactors (LWR) if 
South Korea or the international community provided the 

Senior party foreign policymaker Kim Yong Sun prefaced his 
response by stating that science and technology traverse 
political boundaries and ideology.  He continued as follows:

About the possibility of nuclear cooperation, whatever the form 
and size of such
cooperation for peaceful purposes, it should be studied and 
researched.  Science
surpasses ideology and borders.  There are several additional 
documents on exchanges
and cooperation in which cooperation is scientific, not only 
political and cultural.  If
we seek broad scientific exchanges, why not nuclear cooperation; 
but not only
nuclear, we should cooperate in all fields.  In the 10 point 
program [for reunification,
announced in April 1993], we also mention this issue where it 
refers to everyone
making their own contribution with power, knowledge and money.   
When we say
knowledge, this contains fields such as scientific cooperation 
including nuclear
cooperation for peaceful purposes and not only between North and 
South Korea, but
also with the international community (2).

Thus, it was no surprise that the North Koreans raised the issue 
of shifting to a light water reactor technology at the second 
round of high level talks in New York in June 1993. In response, 
the American negotiators indicated that the United States would 
support such a move as light water reactor technology is 
inherently less proliferation prone than the graphite reactors 
under construction in North Korea.  But they suggested that the 
issue was moot until the DPRK complies fully with its full scope 
safeguards commitment under the NPT. Moreover, they informed the 
North Koreans that the appropriate way to pursue this possibility 
was to discuss it with South Korea and with Russia which has 
already agreed to supply four such reactors (when the North 
complies with its NPT obligations and finds a way to pay for the 
transfer).  There the matter rested until Geneva.

In Geneva, the North Koreans raised the reactor technology 
transfer issue on July 16th after an initial round of discussions 
had already been completed.  The North Koreans stated that the 
real source of problem in nuclear issue, they said, is their 
inferior graphite nuclear reactors which they were forced to 
adopt because no one would help them with anything else.  They 
suggested that the only way to solve the nuclear problem is for 
the DPRK to adopt and to obtain light water reactor technology.

The Americans promptly agreed.  They also stated, however, that 
only after the immediate problem was solved in relation to 
implementing the safeguards agreement, would the United States 
explore ways for North Korea to obtain light water reactors.  
They cautioned the North Koreans to keep in mind that the US 
government does not sell power reactors.  Moreover, North Korea 
would have to arrange finance with private corporate suppliers.  

Although the North Koreans sought (and did not obtain) an 
American commitment that the DPRK should be supplied with light 
water reactors, they also referred to the Russian deal to supply 
them four reactors.  They appeared at the Geneva meeting to be 
satisfied with Russian LWR technology so long as the United 
States (or someone else) finances it.  In one aside, the 
Americans suggested that as South Korea has light water reactors, 
the North Koreans should raise the issue of finance with Seoul. 

The North Koreans also stated that the best way to proceed would 
be to implement their safeguards obligations step by step with 
progress in achieving light water reactor technology transfer, 
culminating in access to sites (they did not refer to special 
inspections specifically although referring to "sites" implies 
the latter).  The American side promptly disabused them of this 
notion, insisting that substantive discussion and measures to 
transfer light water reactor technology could come only after the 
DPRK was in compliance with the safeguards accord.  

The text of the joint US-DPRK statement issued on July 19 in 
Geneva refers obliquely to all of these issues (see Appendix 1).  
One phrase states: "on the premise that a solution related to the 
provision of light water moderated reactors (LWRs) is achievable" 
(which refers to the variety of obstacles that have to be 
overcome for the United States or any other supplier to transfer 
LWR technology to the DPRK) including COCOM controls, and US 
legislation on terrorism and trading with enemy states.

For all these reasons, the statement that "the USA is prepared to 
support the introduction of LWRs" and "to explore with the DPRK 
ways in which LWRs could be obtained" is qualified with the 
phrase "including technical questions related to the introduction 
of LWRs."  This phrase refers in turn to these difficult legal 
and practical questions outlined above which will be discussed in 
the next round of talks--should they occur.

Thus, the DPRK's line in Geneva was new and potentially 
significant. The DPRK shifted blame from US policy to the fact 
that the North has inferior nuclear technology which, it 
suggested, inadvertently implies that it is interested in nuclear 
weapons.  It signifies that the leadership in Pyongyang may have 
tilted away from its anti-NPT hardline, at least temporarily.  In 
short, the approach taken in Geneva appears designed to keep open 
a face- saving way out of the nuclear impasse created by 
Pyongyang while sustaining its DPRK's nuclear weapons option for 
the moment.  The LWR issue gives the DPRK a tactical advantage in 
on-going negotiations as it maintains ambiguity as to its 
ultimate intentions while giving the appearance of being a 
confidence building measure that might increase the transparency 
of the DPRK's nuclear program., (3)  Kang Sok Ju (head of the 
North Korean delegation in the Geneva talks) said, for example, 
that his government proposed switching to more modern reactors to 
"prove the point" it does not want nuclear weapons (4). 

Undoubtedly, the DPRK also aspires to match South Korea and Japan 
in terms of perceived technological prowess and prestige 
associated with nuclear power programs although (as I will argue 
in section IV) they can ill afford to pursue this objective.

Some American officials at Geneva observed that it is easy for 
the DPRK to make this move knowing that the many obstacles to 
transferring light water reactor technology cannot be overcome, 
at least not in a time frame that is meaningful to the nuclear 
issue.  Others believe that the DPRK is setting its price for 
compliance at a level which requires the American side to clear 
the way for upgrading trade and investment relations between the 
two countries, and thus, with the rest of the world.  In this 
sense, nuclear technology transfer impelled by the threat of 
nuclear proliferation is an excellent battering ram to pound 
against the American closed door policy toward the DPRK.


The DPRK has developed the basic infrastructure for a nuclear 
fuel cycle with a view to constructing and operating a nuclear 
power plant.  In 1991, Kim Chol Ki, Director of Science and 
Technology Bureau of the DPRK Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry 
told me that North Korea plans to build a 1.76 GWe nuclear power 
plant as part of the third Seven Year Plan for the DPRK.  He 
anticipated that the plant would have four 440 MWe units 
operating on a 2-on, 2-off shift to provide back up against 
outage (5).  

Recently, the South Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute 
released a report entitled "The Present Status of Atomic Energy 
Development in North Korea" according to which the DPRK has 
operated a 5 MW reactor at Yongbyon since 1986; and has a 50 MWe 
reactor under construction at Yongbyon due to operate in 1995, 
and a 200 MWe power reactor under construction at Taechon due to 
operate in 1996.  The report also stated that the DPRK plans to 
build a 635 MW power reactor at Sinpo on the Northeast coast (6).  
An American analyst has reported a different range of reactor 
sizes and locations in the DPRK than those listed in the more 
recent South Korean report (7).  I have assumed that the former 
South Korean data is more accurate as it is consistent with the 
facilities declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency 
(see Figure 1) (8).

Source: Nuclear News, "North Korea's Nuclear Power Programme 
Revealed," July 1992, p. 2.

 In May 1993, I visited the Heavy Industry Sector exhibit in 
Pyongyang which features a display of the DPRK's nuclear fuel 
cycle facilities.  It included a scale cut-away model of the 200 
MWe reactor which revealed primary and secondary heat exchange 
systems for the gas coolant, and two generators.  From the SPOT 
satellite photographs of Yongbyon released by the Tokai Research 
Image Center in Tokyo, it is evident that the Yongbyon reactors 
are not intended for electricity production, as no power lines 
exist to or from the reactor sites.  

From this information, I infer that the DPRK's power reactor 
program commences with the 200 MWe gas cooled reactor, and not 
with the reactors at Yongbyon.  The proposal to shift the DPRK to 
LWR technology therefore relates to this and any other nuclear 
power plants that the DPRK might construct.  Cases for 
Comparison:  The rationale for proposing to shift the DPRK from 
its graphite- moderated, gas-cooled reactor program to LWR 
technology is the latter's relatively lower proliferation 
proneness.  Assuming that the DPRK will have to abandon its 
indigenous 200 MWe reactor in order to obtain LWR technology, the 
two fuel cycles must be compared with respect to two criteria 
(see Table 1).  First, the DPRK could be inside or outside of the 
NPT and the IAEA's full-scope safeguards system will or will not 
be applied to its nuclear facilities.  Second, it could have its 
own or LWR technology.  These possibilities produce four possible 
outcomes as follows:

1.  DPRK is in NPT and has only 200 MWe reactor operating in 
power, not weapons grade plutonium mode, under full-scope 

2.  DPRK is in NPT, has only an LWR operating in power, not 
weapons grade plutonium production mode, under full-scope 

3.  DPRK is not in NPT and has only 200 MWe reactor operating in 
weapons grade plutonium production mode (worst case scenario), 
without safeguards.

4.  DPRK leaves NPT after obtaining an LWR, and operates it in 
weapons grade plutonium production mode (worst case scenario), 
without safeguards.

In this study, I will conduct the comparison of proliferation 
intensity by comparing only two of the four possible cases, 
namely, the DPRK outside the NPT running a 200 MWe indigenous 
reactor (case B1 in Table 1) versus the DPRK inside the NPT 
running an 1 GWe MWe LWR under full-scope IAEA safeguards (case 
A2 in Table 1).  

Table 1: Possible Reference Cases 

                                   DPRK in NPT with           
DPRK out of NPT                   
                                   full-scope IAEA                
with no IAEA             


  1   DPRK                                 A1                         
      indigenous                   In NPT                       
Out of NPT                                 

      200 MWe reactor      200 MWe indigenous     200 MWe 

      only                            reactor                           

   2  Light water                        A2                         
      reactor only                 In NPT                     Out 
of NPT                                 

                                         LWR transferred        
LWR transferred                           

To simplify the analysis, therefore, I assume that the United 
States will hold out for the following "package" before it 
seriously entertains LWR technology transfer to   the DPRK:     

1) the "radiochemical" laboratory or reprocessing facility will 
be dismantled along with any other plutonium separation 
facilities, hot cells, etc;

2) the IAEA will be permitted to resolve discrepancies between 
North Korean operating records and actual plutonium separation 
activities as indicated by sampling, inspection of disputed 
sites, etc;

3) the IAEA Board of Governors will have determined that North 
Korea is in compliance with its safeguards agreement under the 
NPT which will be applied fully to the existing reactors at 
Yongbyon (Alternatively, the DPRK will be persuaded to 
decommission these plants in return for shifting to LWRs, but 
this possibility is left open in my scenarios);

4) North and South Korea will agree to and implement an 
inspection arrangement in accordance with the bilateral 
denuclearisation declaration.

5) North Korea will abandon construction of its 200 MWe graphite-
moderated, gas-cooled reactor in anticipation of receipt of LWR 

6) North Korean spent fuel from an LWR will be kept in holding 
ponds at the reactor site or at a dedicated facility; and 
plutonium in it will not be separated in offshore reprocessing 
plants for recycling into LWR MOX fuel or into an eventual fast 
reactor program in the DPRK;

7) North Korea will rely on external suppliers of enriched 
uranium LWR fuel. I assume also that a 1 GWe LWR reactor is 
supplied by South Korea (or that South Korea bankrolls Russia 
which already has contracts to supply LWRs to North Korea). 
Relative Proliferation Propensity: At the end of the Geneva 
talks, international media reported that US officials prefer that 
the DPRK adopt LWR technology because it is inherently less 
suited for making nuclear weapons.  

In reality, determining the relative proliferation intensity of 
different fuel cycles is a complex matter.  John Holdren has 
suggested four factors against which different fuel cycles can be 
judged for their susceptibility to diversion of fissile materials 
(see Appendix 2). These factors are: 

1) Quality of fissionable materials--the degree of enrichment of 
uranium and the ratio of fissionable to non fissionable plutonium 

2) Quantity of fissionable materials--the number of critical 
masses per GWe-year of operation;

3) Barriers--the chemical barriers to the diversion and use of 
fissile materials such as form and dilutants of uranium and 
plutonium; and the radiological barriers associated with spent 
fuel of low or high burn-up; 

4) Detectability--the degree to which the fuel cycle requires new 
operations or significant modifications, and/or entails 
radiological releases which can be monitored effectively.

 It is evident that the once-through LWR (in the case presented 
by Holdren, a pressurised or PWR) and CANDU fuel cycles are 
significantly less susceptible to diversion of fissile materials 
than other power reactor fuel cycles., (9)  It is not easy to 
directly compare the DPRK's 200 MWe reactor (even after scaling 
down to account for the difference in plant size between the DPRK 
plant and that assumed by Holdren) because the DPRK has not 
released detailed design information for the 200 MWe reactor.  It 
is necessary, therefore, to define a "reference" DPRK power plant 
to juxtapose to an LWR in terms of their relative proliferation 
proneness. DPRK Reference Reactor:  In this section,  I describe 
the basic physical parameters of the British plutonium production 
reactors in order to "design" a reference DPRK reactor to compare 
with LWR technology.

The DPRK reportedly told the International Atomic Energy Agency 
that their reactors are modelled after the British Calder Hall 
reactors built to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons (10).  
They were graphite-moderated, CO2-gas-cooled reactors fuelled 
with natural uranium metal rods clad in a magnesium allow 
("Magnox").  The second generation of four Magnox reactors were 
known as Chapelcross.  Both generations produced plutonium but 
generated electricity as a byproduct.  All eight reactors were 
nominally rated at 50 MWe (net) (11).  Another source rates the 
early Calder Hall reactors at 225 MWth, and 41 MWe (net);, (12)  
I adopt 50 MWe in this study. 

When operated primarily to produce electricity, the Magnox 
reactor operators typically set fuel burnup at 3-4,000 megawatt-
days/tonne of uranium fuel.  The core measured about 14 meters 
wide by about 8 meters high.  Each fuel channel in the reactor 
contained a stack of six fuel elements, each of which in turn 
consisted of massive, solid rods of natural uranium metal about a 
meter long and 3 cm wide.  Each stack of six fuel elements 
weighed about 77 kg.  Each core contained about 1,691 fuel 
channels for a total of assembly of about 10,146 fuel elements.  
The total uranium fuel contained in the core was about 112 tonnes 
of natural uranium (excluding cladding). 

The fuel could be replaced in later, civilian Magnox reactors 
while producing electric power by using on-line, continuous 
refuelling techniques, and about three fuel channels were 
refuelled per week.  Spent fuel from gas cooled Magnox reactors 
cannot be stored indefinitely in water because the Magnox alloy 
(magnesium alloy containing 0.8 percent aluminium, 0.002-005 
percent beryllium, 0.008 percent cadmium, and 0.006 percent iron) 
corrodes slowly in water.  (Dry storage, however, is feasible 
although difficult.)  Each tonne of Magnox fuel irradiated for a 
1,000 megawatt days contained about 998 kg of unconverted uranium 
and 0.8 kg of plutonium (13).

When operated to produce weapons grade plutonium, as they were 
between 1956 and 1964, the Calder Hall and the next generation 
four Cross reactors were run rather differently.  Instead of 
continuous refuelling, the whole core was irradiated and removed 
about twice a year (allowing for about three months repair and 
maintenance work).   To produce very pure plutonium without the 
bothersome isotopes that impede weapons production, the burnup 
rate was reduced to about 400 MWdt/tonne of fuel, at which

Table 2: Relative Proliferation Intensity of LWR vs DPRK 
Indigenous Reactor
               PWR Once Through               DPRK Indigenous
                   Fuel Cycle                          Reactor 
Fuel Cycle
               Per GWe-year                         Per 0.2 GWe-
Operated to Maximize
Plutonium Production
               _______________________  ______________________
               enriched  spent fuel                natural   
spent fuel 
               uranium   storage                   uranium   
               __________   __________     _________ __________

1. Quantity of 855 kg U235  250 kg of   336 kg of 315 kg of 
fissile material     in 28500 kg  Pu (69%U235 in  weapons grade 
and main dilutants   U238, 3 %fissile) in223,664 kgplutonium in 
at this point  enrichment26,000+ kg     of U238   approx. 

uranium andzero %   223,000 kg of

fission        enrichmentU238 and fission

products                 products

2.  Further    extensive chemical       enrichment   chemical 
processing neededfurther separation     from scratchseparation 
from this pointisotopic  from uranium   required  from uranium to 
use in nuclearenrichmentand fission            and fission 
products explosives     required  products                 

required                 for use in nuclear

                explosives; storage

                may require reproc-

                essing of wastes

 3.  Proliferation Susceptibility Indices (5 = worst, 1 = best)
     As is                 1         3              1         4
     Enrichment       5         4              5         4
Quantity                 4         4              1         4
     Chemical           4         2              4         2
     Radiological      5         1-2           5         2
Detection                3         1              5         1
____________Source:  J. Holdren, "Civilian Nuclear Technologies 
and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation," in C. Schaerf et al,  New 
Technologies and the Arms Race, St. Martin's Press, New York, 
1989, pp. 182-185; text for DPRK reactor. Note: see Appendix 2 
for definitions of numerical weights.

rate about 79 kg of weapons grade plutonium was produced per 
reactor year., (14)

On this basis, what can be said about the proliferation 
propensity of a 200 MWe scale up of the early graphite-moderated, 
gas-cooled reactors compared with an LWR when measured against 
the factors listed above (see Table 2)?

In terms of quality, replacing the DPRK reactor with an LWR would 
increase the international community's leverage over the front 
end of the DPRK's fuel cycle by virtue of the latter's resultant 
dependency on imported uranium enrichment services.  

On the back end of the fuel cycle, it would also reduce the 
quality of the plutonium available from spent fuel by increasing 
the amount of plutonium isotopes which may prematurely initiate 
nuclear chain reaction in a weapon (unless the LWR were removed 
from the NPT regime and operated to maximize the production of 
weapons grade plutonium).

In terms of quantity, a 1 GWe LWR would produce about 250 kg of 
plutonium per year.  A DPRK 200 MWe reactor scaled up from Calder 
Hall technology and operated in plutonium production mode could 
produce about 315 kg of weapons grade plutonium. Thus, LWR 
transfer would decrease the quantity of plutonium to be 
controlled under safeguards, although only marginally.  In 
neither case, however, would diversion of 1 percent per year 
yield a "bomb" quantity of plutonium (5 kg for weapons grade 

In terms of chemical barriers, LWR technology is fairly resistant 
on the front end in that the fissile material is in oxide form, 
albeit not mixed with an effective dilutant. However, the gas 
cooled reactor would use natural uranium fuel which would be even 
more difficult to utilize for weapons purposes than low enriched 
uranium oxide for LWR fuel.  So long as both fuel cycles do not 
introduce plutonium recycling, they are equivalent in terms of 
chemical and radiological barriers to diverting spent fuel from 
storage to weapons activities. Unfortunately, due to the 
difficulty of storing spent MAGNOX fuel in water for long 
periods, North Korea has argued that it may be obliged to 
reprocess the fuel for safety reasons and has already cited 
precedents to this effect in Britain, France and Japan (15). Some 
experts contend that dry storage is feasible, however.

In terms of detectability of diversion, an LWR fuel cycle appears 
to offer significant advantages.  If we assume that the DPRK 
operates its reprocessing plant in case B1 (go-it- alone with its 
own 200 MWe plant outside of the NPT system) but would abandon it 
along with the 200 MWe reactor in case A2 (rely on LWR 
technology), then the LWR would reduce the opportunities for 
diversion at various points in the reprocessing and recycling 
portions of the fuel cycle from relatively high to essentially 
zero.  The LWR is inherently easier to safeguard as shutdown is 
obvious and required for removal of any fuel rods (although the 
fact that an LWR is relatively easier to control in this respect 
is not relevant to the comparison with the DPRK indigenous plant 
because I assume that this reactor would only operate outside the 
NPT whereby diversion detectability becomes moot). 

Overall, therefore, the major reduction in proliferation 
intensity associated with switching to LWR technology would be 1) 
the increased dependency of the DPRK on the international 
community for enrichment services; and 2), the reduced 
opportunity for and enhanced detectability of diversion of 
plutonium from LWR spent fuel under safeguards versus an 
indigenous reactor operating outside the NPT.  Finally, inducing 
the DPRK to abandon the 200 MWe reactor would lay to rest any 
possible rationale for completing and operating its reprocessing 
facility in order to safely store spent fuel.  Other than these 
advantages, the LWR is only marginally less proliferation prone 
than the indigenous plant from a technical perspective.  Other 
Considerations: Six other factors offset or reinforce these 
marginal technical advantages of an LWR over an indigenous DPRK 

First, an LWR in North Korea could legitimate continued 
accumulation of weapons- relevant skills that could be mobilised 
at short notice to produce nuclear weapons from a large stock of 
accumulated plutonium in spent fuel.  Thus, the acquisition of an 
LWR is consistent with the DPRK maintaining a posture of studied 
ambiguity as to its ultimate intentions with respect to nuclear 

Second, the DPRK could reduce the leverage implicit in its 
reliance on imported enriched uranium fuel by stockpiling this 
material (assuming it could afford to do so,  and that this step 
passed unnoticed by the international community).  

Third, LWR or "reactor grade" fuel containing excessive amounts 
of the plutonium isotopes Pu 240 and Pu 242 is still useable for 
a nuclear weapon at a cost to expected yield and certainty of 
yield than weapons using "weapons grade" material.  Moreover, it 
is not appreciably more difficult to design a weapon using 
reactor rather than weapons grade plutonium (16).  

Fourth, the DPRK could operate an LWR (presumably after departing 
from the NPT) to minimize the production of these inconvenient 
isotopes by shutting down the reactor more frequently to remove 
irradiated fuel (but at a cost to electricity production) (17).  

A "modernised" DPRK that is rendered capable of running (or even 
constructing) an LWR could also become a more active and 
disruptive exporter of nuclear technologies than it would if it 
only has access to its own relatively primitive nuclear 
technology.  Weighing against this disadvantage of an LWR is the 
fact that although the DPRK could become a more capable and 
potentially disruptive supplier of nuclear fuel cycle 
technologies, materials (such as graphite) and techniques, it 
would be less likely to have developed and transfer nuclear 
weapons capabilities under the political conditions in which an 
LWR might be transferred to the DPRK.  Conversely, it might 
develop and share nuclear weapons-related expertise with other 
states in the near-term if left to its own devices; whereas it 
would take many years (up to fifteen years for advanced reactor 
core components) for the DPRK to develop exportable expertise in 
LWR manufacture (18). 

One other issue is worth noting.  North Korean officials have 
noted that South Korea's nuclear power reactors might be hit 
during a war.  These reactors present tempting radiological 
targets (19).  By the same token, a large scale nuclear power 
plant in North Korea presents the South with a reciprocal 
targeting option.  Having a much larger reactor program (twelve 
power reactors operating or under construction), the South 
proffers the North 10-15 times as much radiological damage 
potential as would one reactor in the North to the South.  But a 
large reactor in the North would make the implicit threat to 
attack a radiological target in wartime a risk shared by both 
sides, which in principle provides the South with a qualitatively 
similar deterrent against such attack.  Although an LWR might 
contain much more fission products and radioactive materials than 
the DPRK's 200 MWe plant, the switch to LWR technology per se 
would make little difference to this factor.

In this section, I have shown that an LWR offers some inherent 
advantages over North Korea's own reactor in terms of the 
criteria of quantity and quality of fissile materials, chemical 
and radiological barriers, and detectability.  I also noted that 
six other factors should be considered in relation to the 
transfer of an LWR to the North Korea, namely: continued DPRK 
ambiguity as to ultimate proliferation intention; fuel 
stockpiling; the utility of LWR-grade plutonium for nuclear 
weapons; the possibility that an LWR could be used to make 
weapons-grade plutonium; North Korea's export behaviour; and the 
issue of radiological targeting in wartime in the Korean 

In the next section, I analyze the economic soundness of a 
nuclear power plant in the North Korean energy economy.


As of 1991, the DPRK planned to build only one nuclear power 
plant.  When that is completed successfully, North Korean 
officials assert that they will develop further plants "in 
accordance with the needs of national economic growth (20)."

There is little doubt that the DPRK is suffering from acute 
energy shortages, both of petroleum fuels (especially in the 
transport sector, probably in industry, and possibly in 
fertiliser production), and of electricity. Energy Sector:  As is 
well known, the DPRK relies heavily on coal, hydropower, and 
imported oil for its energy supplies.  Table 3 shows an 
approximate energy supply balance for the DPRK.  This section 
demarks the energy sector which accounts for the bulk of the 
DPRK's greenhouse gas emissions

Table 3: DPRK Energy Supply Balance, 1991 estimate 

(10-to-the-15th-power joules) 

Oil               Gas     Coal              Electricity               
Other*        Total

 Primary Production       -                 -       1285.4            
343.3(#)                  37.7            1666     Imports          
239               -       75.4              -                         
-                314.0

 Exports          -                 -       -                 
?***                      -                -       

Primary Supply           238               -       1360.8            
343.3(#)                  37.7            1980.5 Net 
Transformation-12.6                -       -314.0            -
167.5                    -            - 494.1 Final Consumption      
226.4             -       1046.8            175.9+                    


Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, China, North Korea Country 
Profile 1992-93, 1993, p. 80, citing Energy Data Associates. 
Notes: *        No accounting for fuelwood and other bioenergy 
fuels. #        Primary electricity production, imports and 
exports are expressed as input equivalents

on an assumed efficiency of 33 percent. ***      No account of 
small exports of hydroelectricity to China, nor jet bunkers and

international shipping +    Output basis.

 The institutional arrangements in the energy sector are 
complicated and reflect a high degree of functional 
fragmentation.  The energy sector in the DPRK has no single 
specialised institutional authority or ministry responsible for 
energy analysis, integrated planning and management.  These tasks 
are scattered in agencies and ministries as depicted below:

(a) Coal exploration, mining and supply is under the jurisdiction 
of the Ministry of

Coal Mining;

(b) The electric power sector development, power generation, 
distribution and sales

are the responsibility of the Electric Power Industry Commission 
(see below for


(c) Energy statistics and energy planning activities are 
performed by the State

Planning Commission incorporating Central Statistics Bureau under 
its authority.  The

State Commission for Science and Technology acts as a consulting 
body in these

activities mainly providing appropriate recommendations and 
software for energy plan

formulation and decision making;

(d) Supervision of energy flow and reasonable consumption of the 
fuel in the transport

sector is assigned as a function of the State Transport 

(e) The Ministry of Atomic Energy is in charge of development, 
construction, and

power generation of nuclear power plants, as well as nuclear fuel 

(f) The External Economic Affairs Commission is responsible for 
purchase of crude

oil and petroleum fuels, and all imported machinery and equipment 
for the energy


(g) The Ministry of Machine Building Industry is responsible for 
manufacturing and

supply of domestic power equipment.  Most of the research and 
development work

for the energy sector is performed by the institutes affiliated 
with the Academy of

Sciences, although all the above-mentioned Ministries and 
Commissions have their

own research institutions;

The non-standing State Committee for Energy, chaired by the Prime 

discusses and decides on major issues in the energy sector;

Research and development activities related to the energy sector 
performed by

institutions affiliated with the various ministries are 
coordinated by the State

Commission for Science and Technology. Appendix 3 contains a flow 
chart illustrating this organizational arrangement.  This 
functionally differentiated and fragmented institutional 
framework results in poor policy coordination and program 
implementation.  There is no comprehensive energy policy in the 
DPRK.  There is no apparent economic rationale to the existing 
price structure for different energy forms.  There are no even 
rudimentary markets to facilitate economically efficient 
transactions between energy-related supply and demand entities.  
Planning and fuel allocation is also inhibited by the apparent 
non-existence of a basic energy supply/demand balance in the 
DPRK.  Indeed, a UNDP energy efficiency improvement project in 
the DPRK is meant to create just such a balance at the proposed 
Center for the Rational Use of Energy.  Electricity Sector:  
North Korea claims to have about 12,000 MWe of installed 
capacity, with an available capacity of 10,000 MWe.   
Approximately 50 percent of the generating capacity is 
hydroelectric, and about 50 percent is thermal, mostly coal-
fired.  About 84 percent of the electrical energy is fired by 
coal.  The annual and dail load curves in 1989 for the DPRK are 
shown in Figure 2. Generating Plant: Although there are more than 
500 generating plants, only 62 major power plants are linked to 
the nationally interconnected transmission system.  The latter 
system in turn transports about 85 percent of the generated 
electrical energy.  (The residual 15 percent of the electrical 
energy is generated by self-reliant industrial facilities and by 
small, isolated and mostly hydroelectric units.)   Of the plants 
linked to the transmission system, 20 are thermal (18 being coal-
fired, 2 being oil-fired), and 42 are hydroelectric.  The largest 
thermal unit is at Pukchang with an installed capacity of 1,600 
MWe.  The largest hydroelectric plant is at Supung and has an 
installed capacity of 700 MWe (7 * 100 MWe turbines).  The output 
of the latter plant is shared by the DPRK and China.

The North Koreans run the thermal, mostly coal-fired plants as 
baseload units, and use the hydroelectric plants to meet peak 
load demands.  When demand exceeds supply, the supply to 
consumers is suppressed.  The DPRK Electric Power Industry 
Commission estimates that it has to accommodate a generating gap 
of at least 500 MWe.  Blackouts occur and loads are shedded 
regularly resulting in large production losses.  In the winter 
(November-December), load shedding reaches 1,000 MWe due to the 
accumulation of snow. In summer--particularly in March through 
May--shortage of water at hydroelectric reservoirs forces the 
power system operators to shed as much as 2,000 MWe for up to an 
hour at a time.  Bad weather can worsen the situation as storms, 
old and low quality equipment, and incorrect operation of 
protective devices cause the transmission system to fail.

Consequently, the quality of electric power in the DPRK is also 
poor in terms of frequency (often found at 57-59 Hz well below 
the permissible deviation from the standard 60 Hz) and voltage 
(which frequently fluctuates).  The power factor at load centers 
is also low and averages 0.8 which can damage badly end use 
equipment. Transmission and Distribution System: The transmission 
system is isolated from neighbouring countries (except for a 60 
KV line feeding power to a remote area of China).  The DPRK uses 
220 and 110 KV lines for bulk transmission; 60, 10 and 3.3 KV for 
distribution; and 380/220 V at 60 Hz for distribution to 
consumers.  The Government states that 100 percent of households 
and industry are electrified.  As not all consumers are metered, 
the exact quantity and sectoral distribution of electrical end 
use are not known.  The Government states that transmission 
losses are about 10 percent, and distribution losses are about 6 
percent.  However, some observers believe that this official 
estimate (like generation figures) are optimistic, to say the 
least.  The transmission and distribution system reportedly 
urgently needs to be refurbished (see Figure 3). Generation 

The DPRK government claimed that generation in 1989 was about 50-
55 TWhe. Informed observers in Pyongyang estimate that the actual 
generation in 1992 was about 31-32 TWhe and that the annual 
shortfall is between 10-12 TWhe.  This difference reflects all 
the problems of generation, load shedding, and transmission and 
distribution losses referred to above.  

In the DPRK's generating plants, machinery cannot be maintained 
or repaired adequately due to the shortage of spare parts, 
testing equipment, and obsolete and incomplete monitoring and 
control instrumentation in the power plants.  The official 
estimate of thermal power generation of the thermal-to-
electricity conversion efficiency of 34 percent is likely a 
substantial overestimate.  At the Pyongyang Thermal Power 
Station, for example, major equipment is deteriorating due to the 
limited capabilities to track thermal performance, poor 
instrumentation and testing equipment, and the lack of a 
comprehensive maintenance program.  All these technical problems 
are worsened by the shortage of skilled staff able to use what 
equipment exists.  About 211 GWhe of electricity generated at the 
station (or 5 percent of its nominal and 7 percent of its actual 
rated output at a 100 percent capacity factor) is lost due to 
acute problems such as boiler outage, etc. Coal Shortages:  The 
power sector is also afflicted by problems originating in the 
coal mining industry.  Coal shortages (reportedly due to the 
classic command-and-control bind of shortage of coal for steel 
and power production on the one hand, and transport constraints 
on getting coal to end users due to steel shortages on the other) 
have constrained the power output at thermal power stations.  
Also, the Institute for Coal Selection lacks equipment to 
determine the energy content of mined coal.  Consequently, power 
station operators may not know the quality of fuel loaded into 
steam boilers at generation plants.  The DPRK lacks a long range 
coal mining industry development programme and master plan for 
each coalfield and basin to determine the best allocation of 
investment resources in coal production in relation to projected 
consumption needs.  Moreover, that coal which is produced is not 
cleaned before it is sent to consumers which imposes operating 
and pollution problems (from ash) for power plant operators.  
Perhaps 60 percent of the coal used in power plants is wasted in 
inefficient combustion.  

It has been estimated that the equivalent of at least 6 million 
tonnes of coal is wasted in the whole country and that simply 
using high temperature waste heat rationally would increase 
electricity generating capacity by 400 MWe.  Most of the 
industrial furnaces and ovens which vent exhaust gases at 
temperatures of more than 500o centigrade do not recover the heat 
for preheating fuel or other uses.  Nor are piping or furnace 
walls insulated due to the lack of insulation materials.  Almost 
no use is made of modern heat exchangers or simple heat pumps. 
Expansion Plans: The Government emphasises expansion of the power 
sector in its plans and allocated 3 billion won during the most 
recent (1987-1993) plan.  It aimed to increase power capacity to 
19,000 MWe and to generate 100 TWhe in 1993.  These plans are 
ambitious and highly unrealistic.

To this end, the DPRK is building 12 new hydroelectric plants 
amounting to an additional 2,500 MWe (the largest is 800 MWe).  
The Government also plans to construct 4,000 MWe of thermal power 
plant ranging from 200-1600 MWe.  As noted earlier, it also 
proposes to add a nuclear power plant the size of which is 
indeterminate.  Finally, the Government intends to upgrade the 
transmission network by expanding it and introducing 330 KV 
transmission in the mid-nineties (to increase eventually to 500 
KV). Institutional Weakness:  The Electric Power Industry 
Commission (EPIC) is the key power sector institution which plans 
and develops power generation, transmission, distribution, and 
end use sales and has ministerial status in the Government.  The 
organisation chart for EPIC is shown in Appendix 4.

Within EPIC, the Electric Power Dispatching Bureau is responsible 
for the Electric Power Production and Dispatching Control Center 
(EPPDCC) which in turn monitors and coordinates the functions of 
the power system with its fifty strong staff.  EPPDCC is 
responsible for planning hydroelectric and thermal power plants; 
monitoring the status of generating units for efficiency and 
reliability of supply; monitoring the system flow of electricity 
at voltage levels at or above 110 KV; planning and implementing 
repair and maintenance of the system; responding to faults and 
contingencies in the power system; and collecting and storing 
data on system operation.   It also supervises 11 regional power 
dispatching centers. It is supported by the Institute of Electric 
Power and Telecontrol in the areas of telecommunications and 
control, computer equipment, and software. Load Dispatch 
Difficulties: Given the complexity of the power system, EPPDCC 
requires instant access to accurate and salient information on 62 
power plants, 58 substations, and 11 regional transmission and 
distribution dispatching centers.  The system operators at 
EPPCDD, however, rely on phone or telex messages for status 
updates on the value of such parameters as voltage, current, 
active power, frequency etc. at a load center, or a drop in 
system frequency due to a fall in generation.  Relatedly, if a 
transmission line is tripped out- of-service due to a fault, then 
the network configuration must be reconstituted immediately or 
whole sections of the system become isolated.  The slow pace and 
unreliability of the information systems used by EPPDCC virtually 
ensure that the system operators cannot restore the system to 
working order.  As of late 1992, EPPDCC operated one old desk top 
personal computer to collect and analyse system performance data, 
but it cannot handle the processing of planning and logging 

Thus, the power system lacks an modern, automated, and 
computerised supervisory and monitoring capability that can 
support a load dispatching function in real time.  The pilot 
project underway with UNDP support to rectify this deficiency 
covers four critical power plants and substations only, and will 
not resolve this problem at a system level.  Vast End Use Energy 
Waste:  In addition to the problems noted above, the consumption 
at point of end use of electricity is also very inefficient in 
the DPRK.   The Government estimates that industries typically 
waste between 30 and 50 percent of energy supplied.  In the 
building sector, many residential buildings are not insulated.  
Typically, heating is by hot water pipes embedded in the floor 
with a single on/off valve per apartment.  The source of heat is 
centralised, and is linked to power plant waste steam output on a 
district basis. (Cooking is by bottled gas or kerosene with fuel 
stored on balconies) (21).  Aside from dramatically increasing 
comfort levels in North Korean buildings, properly insulating 
walls and windows would reduce the demand for "waste" steam from 
power plants which could be used better on-site power plants to 
increase the generating efficiency (or reduce fuel usage) of 
electricity.  The Government has recognised that large 
opportunities exist to reduce energy waste and has decided to 
establish a Centre for Rational Energy Use.  

In short, the main characteristic of the DPRK's power sector is 
its extraordinarily wastefulness--waste in fuel production, waste 
in transmission and distribution, waste in end uses of 
electricity, and waste of scarce skilled labor.  The DPRK's power 
sector is badly organised and managed.  It cannot operate 
efficiently due to obsolete equipment and procedures.  It is hard 
to imagine it operating effectively a modern nuclear power plant.


From an economic perspective, the DPRK's priorities for public 
investment in increasing energy services obtained from its energy 
sector probably should be (in order of most to least important):

1.  Improve energy efficiency in end uses, especially in large 
and centralised consumers such as industrial plants and 

2.  Reduce energy losses in generation, transmission, and 
distribution in the existing power system;

3.  Increase the quality and quantity of domestic energy 
resources (coal and water storage);

4.  Provide new energy service capacity based on integrated, 
least cost power planning which puts marginal supply options on 
an equal footing with marginal end use efficiency options.

5.  Construct new generating capacity as needed after all the 
above priorities have been achieved. This analysis suggests that 
constructing a nuclear power plant in the DPRK is likely to be a 
high cost, low priority way to fulfil energy demands.  The 
demonstration effect of the Japanese and South Korean nuclear 
power programs make it difficult to argue this case effectively 
with North Koreans--but the fact that these two countries have 
overinvested in a costly energy option should not disguise the 
fact that the DPRK can ill-afford to waste money on a nuclear 
power plant when many other options exist to supply energy 
services at far lower cost, faster, and with less risk.  Indeed, 
continuing to divert a large fraction of North Korea's scientific 
and technological talent to a nuclear power program may worsen 
significantly the chronic and pressing problems of the 
conventional power sector described above. Technical Problems:  
In addition to the opportunity cost of foregone energy services 
that a nuclear power plant will impose on North Korea's economy, 
such a plant would also pose formidable technical challenges 
including: maintaining system reliability; following load 
patterns with a base load plant; safe operation; delay; and 

A nuclear power plant may also be technologically ill-suited for 
the DPRK power system.  First, it is unclear whether a 1 GWe 
plant at Sinpo (or elsewhere) will be small enough to not 
threaten the power system's stability (crudely, no generating 
unit should exceed more than about 10-20 percent of the total 
system capability--or the available system reserve--or the 
operation of the whole system may be threatened due to unexpected 
outages) (22).  Detailed review of the DPRK transmission system 
would be necessary to answer this question.  Inspection of Table 
3, however, indicates that the DPRK barely meets the reliability 
criterion--assuming that its total actual generating capacity of 
10,000 MWe feeds into one national, highly interconnected 
transmission grid.  Conversely, by the time that the DPRK might 
bring an LWR on-line, the grid may have grown enough to 
accomodate a large LWR.

Second, a nuclear power plant is usually operated as a baseload 
plant and cannot be quickly powered up and down to follow peak 
demand cycles.  Ascertaining whether a nuclear Table 3: 
Relationship between installed capacity and size of plant 

Installed Capacity Must                   To Accommodate A Single 
Be At Least                        Plant of 
________________________           _________________________

850    MWe                                       100   MWe 3,300  
MWe                         300   MWe 9,200  MWe                         
600   MWe 20,000 MWe                   1,000 MWe


R.J. Barber Associates, LDC Nuclear Power Prospects, 1975-1990: 
Commercial, Economic and Security Implications, ERDA-52 UC-2, p. 

power plant would be technically appropriate in relation to 
demand patterns would require access to data either as yet 
uncollected, or not released by the DPRK Government.  

Third, it remains an open question as to whether a nuclear power 
plant could be operated safely and its output dispatched, given 
the parlous nature of the current power operating infrastructure 
described in the previous section.  Admittedly, it would take 5-7 
years (if South Korea were to be the supplier and architect-
engineers) before an LWR could be built in the DPRK which would 
provide some time to train power system and nuclear plant 
operators.  Nonetheless, the status of the current power system 
does not inspire confidence that safety and operational 
objectives would be achieved in a DPRK nuclear power program.  
Attempting to operate an LWR (especially a Russian LWR) in the 
DPRK may pose an environmental threat to domestic populations as 
well as to neighbouring states already sensitive to radioactive 
fallout issues in the aftermath of Chernobyl and  Russian 
radwaste dumping in the Sea of Japan.

Fourth, transferring an LWR will take years--many years.  The 
tasks of financing, site selection, power system upgrade, fuel 
cycle infrastructure, fuel supply contract, technology supply and 
architect-engineering contracts, training of operators and 
technicians, and actual construction and testing would all have 
to be completed before a nuclear power plant would deliver the 
first kWhe into the North Korean power grid.  

A minimum of six years (assuming South Korean financing, and 
South Korean or Russian LWR technology) would be required, being 
one year to set up the deal, and five years to construct an LWR., 
(23)  Given the difficulties of building a nuclear power plant in 
North Korea where basic legal and administrative barriers exist 
to the operation of foreign firms and in which the economic 
infrastructure is so poorly developed that an architect- 
engineering firm would have to import virtually all supplies and 
much of the requisite skilled labor force, a more reasonable 
estimate of the time to complete the plant might be 8-10 years.

Finally, a GWe-sized LWR will cost upwards of US$3 billion--money 
that the North Koreans do not and will not have in the 
foreseeable future, given their accumulated foreign debt of US$5 
billion.  If the North Koreans are serious about obtaining an 
LWR, then they must assume that they can persuade another state 
to provide financial guarantees to private financiers to bankroll 
the project, or to directly finance the transfer with a loan. 
Presumably, they have in mind that South Korea might finance 
either a Russian LWR, or a South Korean LWR as doing so may be 
cheaper than the political and military costs of responding to a 
North Korean nuclear weapons program.  The DPRK may also 
calculate that obtaining external financing for an LWR on this 
scale might help it to revive its sagging credibility with 
foreign lenders still angry at its failure to reschedule its $5 
billion debt.


Thus far in this paper, I have:  1) described the emergence of 
the LWR transfer issue in the context of the nuclear weapons 
issue; 2) compared the relative proliferation intensity of an LWR 
relative to an indigenous North Korean nuclear power reactor; and 
3), demonstrated that North Korea probably will incur significant 
opportunity costs if it pursues a nuclear power program rather 
than cheaper and less risky ways to meet its energy needs.  In 
this section, I turn to the concern which lies at the heart of 
the LWR transfer issue: why did the North Koreans raise this 
demand and is it sensible to meet it?  North Korean officials 
often repeat a slogan in international meetings:  "We mean what 
we say and we say what we mean."  In reality, fathoming the North 
Koreans' intention has been the most difficult aspect of the past 
and on-going nuclear negotiations, and the LWR transfer issue is 
no exception.

In sum, the following conclusions can be drawn from the preceding 
four sections of this essay:

Conclusion 1: the North Koreans raised the LWR transfer issue to 
keep their options open by defining a face-saving exit from the 
NPT impasse that they have created and to create a battering ram 
with which to break down the US closed door policy on trade, 
investment and aid to the DPRK;

Conclusion 2: an LWR presents marginal advantages over the 
indigenous North Korean reactor in terms of relative 
proliferation intensity; but the critical issue is the 
implementation of full-scope safeguards and compliance with NPT 
obligations, not the relative technical characteristics of 
nuclear fuel cycles;

Conclusion 3: an LWR is probably an expensive way to meet North 
Korea's energy needs and may be dubious from an economic 
perspective.  In any case, demanding an LWR along with 
abandonment of the DPRK's own reactors would delay the startup of 
its nuclear power reactor program by at least five years;

Conclusion 4: the DPRK is likely to insist that it retain its 
existing nuclear power program and operate it under safeguards 
while an LWR is transferred, in order to retain backstopping 
insurance against the whole deal going sour. Although the United 
States will find this stance difficult to accept, it may conclude 
that keeping the DPRK in the NPT with safeguards applied to its 
fuel cycle is better than having it outside the NPT without 
safeguards, especially if it judges that the actual transfer of 
LWR technology is unlikely to be completed in the lifetime of the 
Kim regime. The North Koreans who make decisions in Pyongyang 
know these facts will have drawn their own conclusions.  The 
corollary of these conclusions is that they seek primarily to 
realise intangible benefits such as prestige, the impression of 
modernity, and symbols of external recognition of the durability 
of their rule; and possibly more tangible gains in terms of 
reopening trade and financial relations with the external world 
(see the epilogue below).

The critical issue is whether provision of an LWR will induce the 
North Koreans to abandon their reprocessing plant (and possibly 
their own reactors) and allow full-scope safeguards to be 
implemented.  If so, then providing an LWR is a cheap way to 
preserve the peace and restore the nuclear non proliferation 
order in Northeast Asia.  If not, then the transfer issue is 
simply a diversion introduced by North Korea to stall for time 
while they pursue a nuclear weapons program or seek other 

Given that an LWR would not exist under the most optimistic 
scenario until after Kim Il Sung has passed from the scene, the 
abandonment of its 200 MWe reactor and reprocessing plant, and, 
by returning to the NPT fold, the resolution of outstanding 
ambiguity as to the North's residual nuclear weapons capability 
arising from past reprocessing, would be a major concession by 
Pyongyang.  Indeed, the DPRK's current rulers would have no 
assurance that they would ever receive an LWR given the long lead 
times involved.  It follows that however politically important an 
LWR transfer agreement might be to ensuring that full-scope 
safeguards are applied to the DPRK's nuclear fuel cycle, an LWR 
cannot substitute for other benefits sought by the regime which 
may have an immediate and tangible impact on its survival 
prospects.   These include negative security assurances, an end 
to Team Spirit, and a general upgrading of US-DPRK relations.

By demanding that LWR technology be transferred, North Korea has 
set a high price for complying with the NPT.  But in doing so, it 
has at least defined a specific way to resolve the standoff that 
might be acceptable to all parties and against which progress can 
be measured quite precisely.  Striking this deal would also 
symbolise that the United States, and by implication, the rest of 
the world, recognises the political autonomy of the North Korean 

It is difficult to be optimistic at this late stage in the 
endgame.  North Korea has barely fulfilled the two conditions 
that it agreed to in Geneva--starting a serious dialogue with the 
IAEA to resolve the discrepancies identified by the IAEA as to 
past plutonium reprocessing, and entering into substantive talks 
with South Korea.  Indeed, it has backtracked by asserting that 
compliance with IAEA safeguards should follow, not precede 
striking a deal to transfer an LWR--a position it knows to be a 
non-starter with the United States.   It has also done nothing to 
date to resolve the outstanding issues with the IAEA and has 
refused to allow the IAEA to conduct uninhibited routine 
inspections (although it did offer to let inspectors refurbish 
monitoring equipment at the end of October).

Until now, the DPRK has been able to curb moves to increase 
pressure on it by allowing the international community to 
maintain the transparency of its current nuclear activities (24).  
However, the IAEA inspectors who went to North Korea at the end 
of August were unable to conduct even routine inspections, and 
were barely able to maintain continuity of monitoring at declared 
sites.  Now that, as the IAEA puts it delicately, continuity of 
observation has been "damaged," the patience of the international 
community will be tested to the limit and time will run out for 
North Korea.  

Shortly, therefore, we will know whether the LWR issue is simply 
another siren song to seduce the naive, or if it is a strategic 
commitment on the part of the DPRK intended to enable it to 
reenter the international community.


Fortunately, "shortly" is an elastic word.  It could be some time 
before the IAEA and the DPRK identify enough common ground to 
permit the United States and the DPRK to reconvene high level 
talks.  Also, US national technical means can substitute for IAEA 
ground monitoring, at least for a time and to some extent.

In my October 19, 1993 interview with Kim Yong Sun in Pyongyang, 
he made a number of significant points relating to the LWR issue.  
"The LWR issue," he stated, "will be crucial to the success or 
failure of the next round of US-DPRK high level talks."   

"If the LWR issue is solved successfully," he added, "then the 
DPRK will stay in the NPT.  If not, then we have no alternative 
but to seek to supply energy from our own nuclear technology."

"The DPRK doesn't care where the LWR technology comes from, 
whether it is American, Russian, South Korean."

"But whatever the source," he said, "the arrangement must be made 
via an agreement between the DPRK and the United States."  North 
Korea, he explained, fully understands that for the United States 
to provide LWR technology, for example, by allowing US LWR 
technology licensed to South Korean companies, to be exported to 
the DPRK will entail clearing away political and legal barriers 
that apply to all aid, investment, and trade between the two 
countries.  Indeed, that is the major reason that the LWR issue 
is so important and why the high level talks will succeed or fail 
according to the way that the LWR issue is handled. 

"It is crucial," he said, "that the next round of high level 
talks with the United States happen very soon. Only a 
comprehensive solution will work that declares that the United 
States and the DPRK will together bring about the LWR transfer. 
This could ease a lot of tension.  If such a deal is made, the 
NPT issue will no longer be a big deal and it would contribute to 
the normalizing of relations between the DPRK and the United 

Presuming that the immediate issues relating to the reactivation 
of routine inspections are overcome and US-DPRK high level talks 
are reconvened, what obstacles to and opportunities for 
cooperation arise with respect to the transfer of LWR technology 
to the DPRK?

In this epilogue, I analyse these obstacles and opportunities in 
a hierarchy starting with high and ending with low order 
questions.  I conclude with some suggestions as to practical 
steps toward cooperating with the DPRK that would be entailed by 
LWR technology transfer, including roles that non governmental 
organisations can play. 1. The overarching quid pro quo  US 
Objectives: Will the United States facilitate this transfer in 
return for merely reactivating routine inspections; or must the 
DPRK also allow special inspections to proceed? modified special 
inspections? dismantle its reprocessing plant?  and allow it to 
be kept if inspected, but not insist that it be dismantled? 
dismantle its 200 MWe indigenous reactor? or allow it to be kept 
if inspected, but not insist that it too be dismantled? DPRK 
Objectives: Will the DPRK insist that the United States actually 
supply LWR technology (including the hardware)? commit to 
ensuring another supplier transfer the technology? merely 
facilitate discussions with another supplier? finance the 
transfer? over what time frame? and what will the DPRK give up in 
terms of fuel cycle capabilities that the United States wants 
dismantled and which represent fallback insurance if the LWR deal 
and related normalisation of relations go sour?  What Does the 
DPRK Mean by "LWR Technology Transfer"?  Does the DPRK mean the 
term to cover merely the supply of hardware, software, and 
peopleware required to plan, construct, operate and decomission 
an LWR in the DPRK?  Or does it include equipping the DPRK with a 
full LWR fuel cycle facilities?  And/or transfer of LWR 
manufacturing capabilities?  In the rest of this paper, I assume 
that only the first, most narrow definition of transferral is 
under discussion with the DPRK.  However, it is important to 
clarify this point at the appropriate time with the North 
Koreans. What Price is the US Willing to Pay to Keep the DPRK in 
the NPT?: Is the effort worth it for the United States?  For the 
North Koreans, it is evidently necessary to transform their 
external political and economic relations if they are to commence 
the delicate process of internal reform, economic transition, and 
structural adjustment.  The stakes for the North are regime 
survival.  The nuclear lever is the only one available to it in 
which domestic and external factors converged.  

But for the United States, the calculus is not so loaded in favor 
of an LWR transfer: a nuclear pariah state that is the exception 
that proves the rule of the NPT and forces allies back into US 
arms for extended nuclear deterrence may be preferrable to a 
creeping proliferator which retains residual nuclear options 
under the nose of the IAEA.  

Conversely, the United States may be willing to pay a very high 
price to preserve the regional and peninsular peace, to keep the 
DPRK in the NPT in order to protect the 1995 NPT Extension 
Conference, and to avoid a chain reaction of Asian nuclear 
proliferation.  (It should be noted that there appears to be 
relatively little technical advantage in terms of proliferation 
proneness of an LWR versus North Korean indigenous reactor 
technology; the issue is how to keep the DPRK in the NPT/IAEA 
system versus withdrawal rather than one versus another 
technology.) Is There a Better Alternative than an LWR Transfer? 
Is there another deal which makes more sense than LWR transfer?  
Should the United States propose instead to facilitate a major 
renovation of the DPRK energy sector, with particular emphasis on 
coal mines, power system, and boiler technology?  Such a package 
deal would also entail overcome the same legal barriers; would be 
more in the US Government's purview; could be done incrementally 
in smaller, faster chunks; and would have a much bigger impact on 
the DPRK's prospects for economic survival, attracting foreign 
investment etc.  Conversely, would the DPRK see this as a as 
losing face? as hooking up its economic train too fast and too 
much to an external locomotive? as foregoing its residual nuclear 
option to proliferate? 2 The difficulty of moving forward 
together but separately:  Who Moves First?  Can the two sides 
edge forward together toward normalisation of political and 
economic relations without admitting it?  Or will the United 
States insist that the DPRK fulfil its IAEA/NPT obligations down 
to the last letter before any formal upgrading occurs and it 
commits to facilitating an LWR transfer?  Conversely, will the 
DPRK accept US "concessions" (such as cancelling exercises, 
declarations of no first use, negative security guarantees, and 
the like) as surrogates for formal upgrading of relations, or 
will it insist that the two move strictly in tandem (creating 
problems for the United States with its allies)? Will it insist 
that the LWR transfer be realized before it reimplements full 
scope safeguards? 3 Political issues that arise include: 
Political and Ideological Opposition: Overcoming the political 
barriers in the United States and key allied states to allowing 
LWR technology to be transferred to a proliferation-prone state.  
In particular, the "non proliferation at all costs" school will 
have to be overcome as well as hardline hawks who relish the 
prospect of a confrontation with North Korea, their perfect 
adversary. The ROK's Reaction: Most important, how will the ROK 
react?  What domestic political factors will come into play in 
Seoul that will affect the ROK's support or opposition to 
transferring LWR technology to the North? The IAEA's Role: Can 
the IAEA play a productive role in the transfer given its recent 
history with the DPRK? (It continued to assist the DPRK on non-
politicized projects until very recently to keep the door open to 
Pyongyang.) Is a US Commitment Credible to the DPRK?  Given the 
problems adduced above and below, is a US commitment to effect 
the transfer credible to all players in Pyongyang?  Is this issue 
amenable to external inputs of any kind? 4 Obstacles to Transfer 
include: Obtaining Congressional Approval:   Negotiating a deal 
that is acceptable to not only the DPRK, but to all parties that 
must be consulted and agreeable inside the United States, 
especially in Congress.  The relevant acts are quite stringent in 
this regard, particularly with respect to the legal obligations 
of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (25). The Legal Barriers:  
Skirting the thicket of legal barriers to allowing a strategic 
technology to be transferred to North Korea, including COCOM, the 
London Suppliers Group/Zanger List, Terrorism Act, Trading with 
the Enemy Act, Nuclear Non Proliferation Act, and many (twenty 
plus) other US laws; and, in the ROK--the only likely supplier of 
LWR technology to the DPRK (see below), what legal obstacles have 
to be overcome given its own nuclear export controls, both for 
ROK nuclear technology, and for US-licensed technology exports? 
Who Might Finance the Transfer?  Financing the deal given that 
the DPRK is bankrupt and owes banks and creditors about $5 
billion.  The only conceivable source for the $2 billion+ that 
would be required is the ROK.  The United States has virtually no 
manufacturing plant on line for making LWRs (although some 
components or parts of a second hand reactor from a US utility 
might be available cheap, or the BNPP in the Philippines) and 
even less political will to finance such an export., (26)  Russia 
could supply the technology but not the finance, and it is 
difficult to conceive of barter trade on a scale that would meet 
the bill.  Japan must resolve the reparations problem before the 
DPRK will entertain a specific deal like the LWR transfer.  No-
one wants France to be involved.  What Role Might South Korea 
Play in the Transfer?  That leaves South Korea.  What kind of 
financing package might be involved?  Apart from a major 
government-financed grant-in-aid, what kind of loan-cum-in-kind-
repayment deal might be negotiable?  Could the DPRK repay the 
loan in raw materials?  by exporting electricity from the plant 
via a linked grid across the DMZ?  Does the ROK actually have the 
full complement of LWR-related manufacturing capabilities that it 
claims? Building an LWR in the DPRK:  Constructing an LWR in the 
DPRK would be a nightmare. There is almost no supporting 
infrastructure.  Materials and services are of very poor quality, 
so all steel and concrete as well as every nut and bolt of 
machinery, plus all the supporting suppliers of incidental and 
routine goods and services for large scale power plant 
production, all of this and more will have to be imported.  A ROK 
supplier will have advantages in this regard: its management, 
skilled and construction labor speak the same language as their 
compatriots; they have large stocks of the relevant nuclear-
specific materials and items produced up to US nuclear 
engineering and manufacturing standards, plus a well developed 
set of supporting suppliers of goods and services.  Time Horizon:  
DPRK decision makers may not fully realise the time required to 
plan, construct, and complete an LWR.  The DPRK has never 
undertaken an industrial project on the scale and complexity of 
an LWR plant.  Its industrial and construction culture is attuned 
to massively engineered, low technology, labor-intensive 
approaches that have no or negative bearing on nuclear power 
plant construction techniques.  It will take at least 5-6 or more 
likely 8-10 years before the DPRK sees the first kWhe from an 
LWR.  This time horizon is beyond the political lifetime of the 
current generation of gerontocrats in Pyongyang.  It is not clear 
that the decision makers who will inherit this legacy will want 
to complete the project. If so, then the suppliers and financiers 
will incur additional risk of project non-completion and DPRK 
non-payment of the financing.  The rulers-in-the-wings may also 
not thank the suppliers for locking them into a nuclear white 
elephant (the Aquino precedent is relevant here). Operation and 
Maintenance:  North Korea's electric agencies are singularly ill-
equipped to operate a nuclear power plant.  Also, their grid may 
be technically inappropriate for a large (GWe) LWR due to the 
reliability criterion (density of interconnection and peak load 
relative to size of biggest generation unit).  Although the 
performance of system operators can be upgraded during the LWR 
construction period, there are practical limits on what can be 
done in this regard, even in 5-6 years.  Technical constraints 
include: deteriorating fuel supply, generation, transmission and 
distribution, and end use equipment; and almost non existent 
system control and dispatch capabilities in real time.  Cultural 
and institutional constraints include organisational pathologies 
associated with forty years of command and control economics, 
standard operating procedures that are incompatible with safe and 
economic operation of an LWR etc.  Uneconomic Front and Back End 
Fuel Cycle Facilities:  Also, with only one LWR (which is all it 
could ever hope to obtain, whatever the pretensions of its 
Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry), the DPRK would not be able 
to operate economic front (uranium supply and fuel fabrication) 
and back end (storage except racked on the LWR site, and 
disposal) fuel cycle facilities.  Perhaps it is best to assume 
that by the time an LWR comes on line, the two Koreas will be 
merging and South Koreans would staf and operate the DPRK's LWR; 
if there are still two separate states, perhaps South Koreans 
could be seconded to the North Korean nuclear agency.  Until a 
couple of years ago, DPRK nuclear officials assumed that they 
could reexport the spent fuel to the former Soviet Union; now, 
they don't know what they will do with spent fuel any more than 
their ROK counterparts. Safety:  There probably isn't much 
difference in the relative hazard of the indigenous DPRK nuclear 
reactor (higher chance of catastrophe with less technological 
isolation from the biosphere, but less curies of radioactivity in 
a smaller core) versus an LWR (less likely to crash with more 
barriers against release, but bigger load of radioactive 
materials).  Training and technical assistance in site selection, 
operating procedures, radiation monitoring, and accident and 
emergency response procedures would be important aspects of a 
cooperative approach to an LWR program in the DPRK.  Also, the 
DPRK would need to set up from scratch a sound regulatory 
framework including an independent nuclear regulatory agency. 5 
Practical Cooperation with the DPRK

This list of obstacles to successful transfer is daunting.  
Equally, each obstacle represents an opportunity for possibile 
cooperation and dialogue with the DPRK, even if the final outcome 
is not a realised LWR transfer.  I draw the following conclusions 
from the preceding sections.

Conclusion 4: Governments must play the primary role if a 
transfer is ever to be achieved.  Only Governments can mobilize 
the requisite resources to address a number of the critical 
issues listed above.  

 Conclusion 5:  Non governmental organisations have a role to 
play, but to be effective, they must enter the field only in 
areas where their flexibility, informality, and speed can help 
the negotiating parties to come to grips with and resolve 
critical issues.  With a strategic approach aimed a key pressure 
points, NGOs can complement official work in all three capital 
cities involved in this question.

 Conclusion 6: Governments are currently engaged in short term 
maneuvering and hard bargaining on other critical issues that 
will determine whether another round of high level talks take 
place this year.  Very little hard work on the core issues 
involved in an LWR transfer has been undertaken within any of the 
Governments.  All three Governments with most at stake in the 
DPRK nuclear issue must become much more informed about the 
potential for and obstacles to cooperation if the LWR issue is to 
become a practical plank of cooperation rather than another issue 
of contention.

 Conclusion 7:  NGOs have a comparative advantage in their 
ability to quickly address some of the critical issues that will 
face Governments (see below).  They are unlikely to have much to 
offer in terms of defining legal and political barriers as legal 
counsel in the State Department and the Pentagon have already 
reportedly completed this analysis.  Indeed, their main task may 
be to educate and restrain the more ideological anti-nuclear 
opponents who may take the US Government to court using NEPA, 
mobilize Congressional and media opposition in order to block the 
transfer, etc.  Such educational meetings should be convened 
sooner rather than later, especially in Washington DC, and could 
be usefully undertaken by Carnegie Endowment; Nuclear Control 
Institute; Natural Resources Defense Council; etc. 

 Conclusion 8:  In particular, NGOs could enter into dialogue 
with South Korean NGO and QANGO (quasi autonomous NGO) 
counterparts to clarify what reaction might be expected from 
Seoul to the ROK being the LWR supplier; and what issues and will 
arise and obstacles have to be overcome should it become the 
major source.  

 Conclusion 9:  NGOs could also usefully enter into a dialogue 
with the DPRK Government to provide it with a better 
understanding of the critical economic, legal, and technological 
issues surrounding LWRs; in particular, they could address the 
relative economic and environmental performance of Russian versus 
US LWR technology.  The Center for Energy and Environmental 
Studies at Princeton University; the Union of Concerned 
Scientists; the Federation of American Scientists could all 
supply such briefing missions at short notice.  Such a mission 
could include some experienced Korean American nuclear engineers 
with construction experience in the ROK, likely from Bechtel or 
from Westinghouse companies.

 Conclusion 10:  NGOs could also explain to DPRK decision makers 
some of the opportunity costs and possible advantages of 
switching its demand from LWR to energy efficiency and energy 
supply technologies.  The International Institute for Energy 
Conservation with its Thai office; or the International Energy 
Efficiency Initiative, with its Indian base in Bangalore, could 
play an important role in sending
briefing missions to the DPRK on the latter issue.

 The delegations of the United States of America (USA) and the 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) met from July 14-19, 
1993, in Geneva for a second round of talks on resolving the 
nuclear issue. 

Both sides reaffirmed the principles of the June 11, 1993 joint 
USA/DPRK statement. 

For its part, the USA specifically reaffirmed its commitment to 
the principles on assurances against the threat and use of force, 
including nuclear weapons. 

Both sides recognize the desirability of the DPRK's intention to 
replace its graphite-moderated reactors and associated nuclear 
facilities with light water moderated reactors. As part of a 
final resolution of the nuclear issue, and on the premise that a 
solution related to the provision of light water moderated 
reactors (LWRs) is achievable, the USA is prepared to support the 
introduction of LWRs and to explore with the DPRK ways in which 
LWRs could be obtained. 

Both sides agreed that full and impartial application of IAEA 
safeguards is essential to accomplish a strong international 
nuclear non-proliferation regime. On this basis, the DPRK is 
prepared to begin consultations with the IAEA on outstanding 
safeguards and other issues as soon as possible. 

The USA and DPRK also reaffirmed the importance of the 
implementation of the North-South Joint Declaration on the 
Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK reaffirms that 
it remains prepared to begin the North-South talks, as soon as 
possible, on bilateral issues, including the nuclear issue. 

The USA and the DPRK have agreed to meet again in the next two 
months to discuss outstanding matters related to resolving the 
nuclear issue, including technical questions related to the 
introduction of LWRs, and to lay the basis for improving overall 
relations between the DPRK and the USA. 

Source:  Reuter's wire service, July 19, 1993.
(remaining appendices and figures are available in hard copy 
version of this paper.  Please contact Nautilus Institute.)


 Definition of ranking in factors

Source:  J. Holdren, "Civilian Nuclear Technologies and Nuclear 
Weapons Proliferation," in C. Schaerf et al,  New Technologies 
and the Arms Race, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1989, pp. 182-
185; cited by permission of the author.

 Source: Author's files

 Source: Author's files
Figure 2.  DPRK Annual and Daily Load Curves, 1989
Figure 3.  Transmission and Distribution System 

1.     R. Jeffrey Smith, "North Korea May Consider Reducing Atom 
Program," Washington Post wire service story, June 22, 1992.

2.     P. Hayes, "Report on Trip to Pyongyang, May 8-11, 1993", 
Nautilus Pacific Research, Berkeley, California, May 1993. 

3.     Pacific Rim Intelligence Report, North Korea Studies Ways 
to Make Nuclear Program 'Transparent,'" Yonhap Friday June 11, 

 4.     A. Higgins, "Korea, Reactor," Associated Press wire 
story, July 19, 1993.

5.     Briefing from and interview with Kim Chol Ki, Director of 
Science and Technology Bureau, Ministry of Atomic Energy 
Industry, Pyongyang, October 4, 1991.

6.     Kim Hong-muk, "Energy Institute Reports Status of DPRK 
Nuclear Facilities," Dong-a-Ilbo, Korean July 8, 1993, p. 2; 
cited in FBIS-EAS-93-130, July 9, 1993, pp. 28-29.

7.     J. Bermudez, "North Korea's Nuclear Infrastructure," Asia 
Pacific Defence Review, volume 1, 1993, p. 4-8.

8.     Nuclear News, "North Korea's Nuclear Power Programme 
Revealed," July 1992, p. 2.

9.     See Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group, Nuclear Power: 
Issues and Choices, Ballinger, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1977, p. 
404; and American Physical Society, "Report to the APS by the 
study group on nuclear fuel cycles and waste management," Reviews 
of Modern Physics, volume 50, no 1, part II, January 1978, p. 

10.  Nuclear News, "North Korea's Nuclear Power Programme 
Revealed," July 1992, p. 2.

11.     Nuclear Assurance Corporation, Nuclear Materials and Fuel 
Cycle Services, Sources, Inventories and Stockpiles, report to US 
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, volume 1, September 1983, p. 

12.     D. Gurinsky and S. Isserow, "Nuclear Fuels," in T. 
Thompson and J. Beckerley, The Technology of Nuclear Reactor 
Safety, Reactor Materials and Engineering, volume 2, MIT Press, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1973, p. 74; personal communication 
from John Simpson, October 13, 1993.

13.     Nuclear Assurance Corporation, Nuclear Materials and Fuel 
Cycle Services, Sources, Inventories and Stockpiles, report to US 
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, volume 2, September 1979, 
pp. IV-4, IV-5.

14.     Personal communication, Frans Berkhout, September 14, 
1993; D. Albright, F. Berkhout, W. Walker, World Inventory of 
Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium, 1992, Oxford University 
Press, New York, 1992, pp. 41-42.

15.     D. Albright et al, World Inventory, p. 72; M. Hibbs, 
"South Korea Renews Quest for Plutonium Separation Ability," 
Nucleonics Week, October 29, 1992, p. 7.

16.     See J. Karsen Mark, "Explosive Properties of Reactor 
Grade Plutonium," Journal of Science and Global Security, volume 
4, 1993, pp. 111-128; and J. Karsen Mark, "Reactor- Grade 
Plutonium' Explosive Properties," Nuclear Control Institute, 
Washington DC, August 1990.

17.     J. Holdren, "Civilian Nuclear Technologies," op cit, p. 

18.     S. Droutman, International Deployment of Commercial 
Capability in Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Nuclear Power Plant Design, 
Manufacture and Construction for Developing Countries, 
Westinghouse Electric Corporation report to Oak Ridge National 
Laboratory, ORNL/Sub-7494/4, October 1979, p. 6-122 and 10-9.

19.     B. Ramberg, Destruction of Nuclear Energy Facilities in 
War, The Problem and the Implications, Lexington Books, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1980, p. 90.

20.     Briefing from and interview with Kim Chol Ki, Director of 
Science and Technology Bureau, Ministry of Atomic Energy 
Industry, Pyongyang, October 4, 1991.

21.     W. Fawcett, Modernisation of Construction Design and 
Calculation Centre, Pyongyang, DPR Korea, mission report to the 
UN Centre on Human Settlements, October 1990, p. 17. 

22.     See R.J. Barber Associates, LDC Nuclear Power Prospects, 
1975-1990: Commercial, Economic and Security Implications, ERDA-
52 UC-2, p. 11-8.

23.     Reuters, "South Korea may help North convert nuclear 
reactors," wire story, July 24, 1993.

24.     S.W. Cheong, "North Korea's Nuclear Problem: Current 
State and Future Prospects," Korean Journal of National 
Unification, volume 2, 1993, p. 102.

25.     See V. Gilinsky and W. Manning,  A U.S. Light Water 
Reactor for North Korea: The Legal Realities, Northeast Asia 
Peace and Security Network, Nautilus Institute, Berkeley, 
December 2, 1993.

26.     See S. Levy, Supply of Light Water Reactor(s) to 
Pyongyang: Technological Issues and Their Possible Resolution, 
Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network, Nautilus Institute, 
Berkeley, December 2, 1993.

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