IAEA director general: “Cause for concern” over North Korea’s nuclear program

January 3, 2024, 9:31AMNuclear News


Recent observations have indicated that warm water has been discharged near the light water reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea, which is consistent with the purported commissioning of the LWR—a process that takes time for any new reactor—and suggests that the reactor has now reached criticality.

“The LWR, like any nuclear reactor, can produce plutonium in its irradiated fuel, which can be separated during reprocessing, so this is cause for concern,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “It remains the case that without access to the facility, the agency cannot confirm its operational status.”

Safety concern: Grossi went on to say that the agency does not have sufficient information to make an assessment about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea site, but that nuclear safety remains the paramount issue when starting a new reactor. Agency inspectors have had no access to North Korea since they were expelled in 2009.

“I repeat that the further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program, including the construction and operation of the LWR, is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” Grossi said.

Point: Grossi called on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the IAEA in the full and effective implementation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, and to resolve all outstanding issues.

“The agency is ready to engage on any of the above issues, including safety,” he said.

Counterpoint: An unnamed spokesperson on Pyongyang’s Ministry of Nuclear Power denounced the IAEA’s efforts to curb North Korean nuclear programs, according to an October 2023 report from Reuters. The spokesperson criticized a resolution adopted at the IAEA General Conference and accused the agency of conspiring with the United States and its allies.

Related Articles