North claims to be building reactor

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North claims to be building reactor

Charles “Jack” Pritchard, a former U.S. nuclear envoy, told reporters in Washington yesterday that North Korea is claiming to be constructing a 100-megawatt light-water reactor that could be completed in two years.

Pritchard, now the president of the U.S.-based Korea Economic Institute, described to reporters observations of the Yongbyon nuclear compex, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, when he made a trip to the North from Nov. 2-6.

While in the North, Pritchard met with Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s top nuclear envoy, and Ri Gun, the North’s deputy negotiator for the stalled six-party talks.

“North Korean officials said they are building a light-water reactor in Yongbyon and we have informed the U.S. government of this fact,” Pritchard told reporters.

The KEI president claimed to have seen the reactor in its early stages of construction and was told by a North Korean official that they were planning to have the reactor completed by 2012.

The reactor, which is being built near where the Yongbyon cooling tower was before North Korea demolished it as a show of nuclear debilitation in 2008, was said by North Korean officials to be for experimental purposes.

Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, has also made similar statements, citing Pyongyang officials earlier this week as saying that they were constructing a small experimental light-water reactor.

The official in charge of construction also told Pritchard that they were not sure when the reactor would be completed. The official added that all construction projects underway in Pyongyang are running toward a 2012 deadline to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birthday. Pritchard said he was skeptical of the deadline.

By Christine Kim []
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