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Park’s 1970s nuclear arms program revealed

Aug 02,2004
SUWON ― Breaking 24 years of silence, a top nuclear expert in South Korea has revealed blueprints for a classified nuclear arms project during the Park Chung Hee administration.
Professor Kim Chul of Ajou University, who was in charge of the nuclear fuel reprocessing project of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in the 1970s, said Sunday that he has kept two books of plans and actual blueprints of the Park administration’s efforts to build nuclear arms.
Mr. Kim, 65, said the state-run atomic energy institute commissioned Saint Gobain Techniques Nouvelles of France to draw up plans for the project in the early 1970s. “In my private archive, I have kept two books of concepts and designs of the nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, dated Oct. 1, 1974, and blueprints dated Jan. 10, 1975, completed by Saint Gobain,” Mr. Kim said.
Some classified documents that were made public in the past indicated that the Park administration was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Mr. Kim’s revelation, however, is the first direct evidence revealing how far South Korea went with its nuclear arms project.
Experts noted Mr. Kim’s revelation proved the Park administration’s determination to develop nuclear weapons. “The concept plans, kept by professor Kim, contain information about an NRX reactor, which can be used to extract weapons-grade plutonium,” a nuclear specialist here said. NRX stands for National Research Experimental Reactor.
South Korea attempted to buy an NRX reactor from Canada, but the plan was scrapped in December 1975.
The 200-page concept plan details the design of nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities as well as required budgets and manpower. Mr. Kim also has blueprints of various stages of plutonium purification, extraction, storage and transfer.
“If the project went ahead as planned, we could have completed plutonium reprocessing facilities in the early 1980s,” said Mr. Kim.
After the United States notified South Korea of plans to withdraw 20,000 American troops from the peninsula in 1970, the Park administration began its nuclear arms development project despite pressure from Washington to stop the effort.
President Park was assassinated in October 1979, and the Chun Doo Hwan administration publicly declared that it would not pursue a nuclear weapons program.


by Eum Tae-min, Ser Myo-ja


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