North Korea pushing ahead with new nuclear reactor: IAEA

Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:54am EST
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - North Korea has made further progress in the construction of a new atomic reactor, the U.N. nuclear chief reported on Thursday, a facility that may extend the country's capacity to produce material for nuclear bombs.

Pyongyang "has continued construction of the light water reactor and largely completed work on the exterior of the main buildings," Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said.

But, he told the IAEA's 35-nation governing board that the U.N. agency "remains unable to determine the reactor's design features or the likely date for its commissioning."

North Korea says it needs nuclear power to provide electricity, but has also boasted of its nuclear deterrence capability and has traded nuclear technology with Syria, Libya and probably Pakistan.

The light-water reactor is being built at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear facility, which consists of a five-megawatt reactor, a fuel fabrication facility and a plutonium reprocessing plant where weapons-grade material has been extracted from spent fuel rods.

North Korea was the first country to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and has denied IAEA access to its atomic sites, reneging on a February deal to do so after it announced plans to launch a long-range rocket, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

It was believed earlier this year to be pushing ahead with plans for a third nuclear test.

Amano said he remained "seriously concerned" about the North's nuclear program, which his inspectors can only monitor via satellite images.   Continued...