VIENNA – A five-day general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency opened Monday, with participants expected to seek North Korea’s approval to send a team to the country to inspect the site of two nuclear power reactors being built there by an international consortium.
The reactors are being constructed by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an international consortium established by Japan, South Korea and the United States under an October 1994 agreement between North Korea and the U.S.
The accord stipulates that North Korea accept an inspection deemed necessary by the IAEA before the main
parts of the light-water nuclear reactors are set up.
Despite a long delay in the start of construction, the program is now proceeding, and the main reactor parts are expected to be set up next year.
The agreed framework commits Pyongyang to suspend and eventually dismantle its weapons-grade nuclear power facilities in exchange for the two reactors and a stopgap supply of fuel oil.
Robert Gallucci, who headed the U.S. delegation in negotiating the agreement, said at the time that the inspections will be realized within five years.
Pyongyang originally refused to have the sites inspected, claiming they were military facilities.
Meanwhile, IAEA Director General Mohamed el Baradei expressed hope at a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors last week that North Korea “will soon be ready to commence active cooperation with the agency.”
The U.S. government reportedly suspects that prior to June 1993, when North Korea rejected an IAEA inspection of its two facilities, North Korea had extracted at the locations enough plutonium to create two atomic bombs.
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