The discussion about the North Korean demand for nuclear reactor technology in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program is premised on the misconception that Light Water Reactors are "proliferation resistant". This briefing has been prepared by Greenpeace International with the aim of clarifying false assumptions and statements that downplay the proliferation threat posed by nuclear reactor technology.
Executive summary: The termination of the planned KEDO project to construct two nuclear reactors in North Korea provides an important opportunity to reflect on the real proliferation risks of light water reactors. Greenpeace and the Bush Administration rarely, if ever, agree on anything. But we both opposed supplying North Korea with a Light Water Reactor. Why ? Because a Light Water Reactor is neither a solution to North Korea’s energy needs, and nor will it have reduced the risk of proliferation. The discussion about the North Korean demand for nuclear reactor technology in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program is premised on the misconception that Light Water Reactors are “proliferation resistant”. An analysis of the technical aspects of Light Water Reactors, however, reveals that such conventional reactors do indeed present real risks of proliferation, while not solving the energy needs of North Korea. This briefing has thus been prepared by Greenpeace International with the aim of clarifying false assumptions and statements that downplay the proliferation threat posed by nuclear reactor technology.While inept negotiation with North Korea to solve the nuclear crisis has only assured that the situation has worsened, it is clear that supplying a nuclear reactor would only increase regional proliferation risks. Thus, Greenpeace has found a point of agreement with the Bush Administration’s approach to the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea – that providing nuclear reactors was solution to the crisis.In summary: · A 1,000-Megawatt Light Water Reactor typically produces between 200-250 kilograms of plutonium during each year of operation; · There is no technical barrier to using so-called “reactor-grade plutonium” to manufacture nuclear weapons;· Eight kilograms or less of so-called reactor-grade plutonium is sufficient for one nuclear device in the 1-20 kiloton range;· Light Water Reactors can be operated in such a manner that weapon-grade plutonium can be obtained from spent fuel removed from the reactor after short periods of irradiation; and· The billions of dollars required for a North Korean nuclear reactor program will not reduce the proliferation risk in the region, but will increase North Korea’s access to plutonium, and further increase the region’s spent nuclear fuel crisis.
Num. pages: 14