"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
North Korea

KEDO Reactor Project Moves Through Protocols Toward Implementation

Howard Diamond

FOLLOWING AN April 9-15 trip to North Korea by an "expertlevel" delegation, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) intends to begin sitepreparation work for the lightwater reactor (LWR) project at the Sinpo site in North Korea by late spring or early summer 1997.

KEDO is the international consortium formed to implement key elements of the 1994 U.S.North Korean agreed framework, under which Pyongyang has frozen its nuclear program in exchange for the construction of two LWRs and shipments of heavy fuel oil. North Korea has been receiving annual shipments of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil while their nuclear complex in Yongbyon remains shut down under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. To date, more than 75 percent of the spent fuel from North Korea's plutoniumproducing, 5megawatt (electric) gasgraphite reactor has been packaged, or "canned," for shipment out of North Korea, as required by the agreed framework.

The expertlevel delegation, which included 54 representatives from the KEDO secretariat and the governments of the United States, Japan and South Korea, held talks with North Korea in Majon and in Sinpo. The talks focused on detailed implementation of the five preconstruction protocols that have been negotiated between KEDO and Pyongyang since completion of the December 1995 supply agreement.

The supply agreement established the scope and terms for KEDO to provide North Korea with the two LWRs, but required negotiation of five additional protocols before KEDO could start work in North Korea. The protocols concern the legal status of KEDO personnel, communications, transportation, control of the project site and contracting within North Korea. A KEDO official said the meetings focused on gaining shared understandings of how the protocols would be implemented "on the ground." According to the official, most issues have been worked out, but some technical details still remain. The group also established a new precedent, traveling to North Korea directly by ship from South Korea, rather than flying in from a third country.

Additionally, KEDO's seventh sight survey team at Sinpo is expected to complete its fivemonth investigation in August 1997. The team of about 30 scientists and engineers has been in North Korea since March 1, and is performing the final indepth geological investigations and surveys of the site boundaries.

Negotiations of an additional protocol dealing with the issue of nonpayment began in New York on March 18, and are expected to be concluded by the first week of May. The new protocol will clarify the means of redress available to KEDO in the event of failure by Pyongyang to repay the costs of the LWR project.

While the LWR project moves forward, it appears that KEDO will be completing the project with a new chief executive. Ambassador Stephen L. Bosworth, who has been KEDO's executive director since July 19, 1995, is reportedly the frontrunner to be appointed as the next U.S. ambassador to Seoul. The U.S. Embassy in Seoul has been without an ambassador since December 31, 1996, when Ambassador James T. Laney stepped down.

KEDO Reactor Project Moves Through Protocols Toward Implementation

Nuclear Deal With North Korea Back on Track After Sub Incident

Howard Diamond

IMPLEMENTATION of the 1994 U.S. North Korean agreed framework resumed in January following Pyongyang's December 29 expression of regret over the grounding of one of its reconnaissance submarines on the South Korean coast. On January 8, the "canning" of spent fuel at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility resumed after having stopped in November. That same day, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) and North Korea signed two protocols in New York that will allow KEDO to begin site preparation work on the $5 billion light water reactor (LWR) project, the central component of the agreed framework.

KEDO is the international consortium founded by the United States, Japan and South Korea to implement the 1994 denuclearization accord. The agreement requires North Korea to freeze and eventually eliminate its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the construction of two proliferation resistant 1,000 megawatt (electric) LWRs and the delivery of heavy fuel oil while the reactors are being built.


Canning' Resumes

The canning operation, which entails transferring the spent fuel rods from a cooling pond where they are currently stored into steel containers suitable for transhipment, was suspended in early November after North Korean workers failed to return from a scheduled work stoppage. At that point, more than half of the Yongbyon reactor's 8,000 spent fuel elements had been placed in "dry storage" by the U.S. Department of Energy and its private contractor.

North Korea removed the spent fuel from its 5 megawatt (electric) experimental reactor at Yongbyon in 1994. The fuel remains a serious proliferation hazard because it contains enough plutonium to build several nuclear bombs. As part of the 1994 deal, North Korea shut down the Yongbyon reactor, with the promise to dismantle it and send its spent fuel out of the country without being reprocessed. U.S. officials hope to complete the canning operation by the end of 1997.

With the submarine incident resolved, KEDO has resumed activity on a number of fronts, according to KEDO spokesman Jason Shaplen. The two protocols signed January 8 by KEDO and Pyongyang represent an important milestone in the LWR project's development, clearing the way for KEDO to begin site preparation near Sinpo in North Korea. Arrangements for KEDO to contract for services in North Korea and KEDO's access to the proposed construction site are covered in the agreements.

KEDO's seventh site survey team is preparing to visit North Korea to conduct a detailed geological investigation and some additional preliminary site preparation work. South Korea indefinitely postponed a planned October trip by the mostly South Korean team of engineers due to concerns over their safety while working in North Korea. The submarine incident delayed the site preparation, but the effect on the overall LWR project schedule is uncertain. The 1995 KEDO North Korean supply agreement calls for completion of the first reactor by 2003 on a "best efforts" basis, and KEDO hopes to be able to make up some of the lost time.

In addition to sending the first shipment of heavy fuel oil for the current year supply schedule, which began on October 31, 1996, KEDO has reached an agreement in principle on accession to KEDO by EURATOM, the nuclear regulatory body of the European Union (EU). The EU is expected to make "an immediate contribution of $13 million and an annual contribution of $20 million in the future" according to Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord. The EU contribution would nearly equal the annual level of U.S. financial support ($22 million for 1996), and would pay for approximately one third of the annual $60 million cost of fuel deliveries to North Korea.

KEDO and Pyongyang have not yet begun to negotiate a protocol on penalties if either party fails to meet its obligations as called for in the supply agreement. Shaplen said talks on the non payment protocol will begin as soon as is practicable.


The Submarine Incident

The resumption of activity implementing the framework accord as of January 31, 1997, came after three and a half months of escalating tension, carefully phrased threats, and intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts. On September 18, the North Korean sub was discovered grounded 100 yards off the South Korean coast.

South Korean President Kim Young Sam called the incident a provocation and demanded a sincere apology from the North. On October 9, South Korea suspended the signing of two KEDO North Korean protocols and a trip by KEDO's site survey team to the North.

Lord flew to Seoul the next day to mend U.S. South Korean relations damaged by Secretary of State Warren Christopher's initial call for restraint from "all parties." After meeting with South Korean leaders, Lord confirmed Washington's and Seoul's support for the agreed framework, but added that there would be "a pause in the pace of our activities."

In response, North Korea warned on October 15 that another delay in work on the reactors might prompt the North to reconsider its nuclear freeze. North Korean preparations to test an intermediate range ballistic missile were reported by the Japanese press the next day. The cancellation of the missile test was announced by the State Department on November 8, after several meetings in New York between U.S. and North Korean diplomats.


U.S. South Korean Disagreement

On November 9, South Korean President Kim reiterated his demand for a "sincere apology" in an interview with The Washington Post. At the time, U.S. officials asked the North to make "an acceptable gesture." Subsequently, the United States and South Korea settled their differnces at the November 24 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila. In the reportedly heated exchange, President Clinton prevailed on President Kim to support American diplomatic efforts to negotiate a resolution of the crisis. The final negotiations went on through December between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in New York.

The result was a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement read over the radio on December 29 that recognized Pyongyang's responsibility for the incident, offered "deep regret," and promised to prevent a recurrence of similar events. South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo Chong Ha termed the North's statement an acceptable apology, thus clearing the way for continued South Korean participation on the agreed framework.

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Agreed Framework Between The United States of America And The Democratic People's Republic of Korea


This framework between the United States and the DPRK resolves the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula by replacing the DPRK’s graphite moderated reactors and related facilities with other alternative energy arrangements.


The Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seeks to resolve the issue of nuclear reactors and plants on the Korean Peninsula. The United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea agreed to replace any graphite moderated reactors and related facilities with other alternative energy arrangements. One such alternative could have been the light-water reactor power plant.

Opened for Signature: 21 October 1994

Entry into force: pending

Official Text: http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/aptagframe.pdf

Status and Signatories: http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/us-dprk-agreed-framework/

ACA Backgrounder: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/agreedframework

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