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3RD LD: N. Korea to reactivate reactor in 1-2 months: IAEA.

VIENNA, Dec. 26 Kyodo

North Korea has moved 600 additional nuclear fuel rods into a facility housing a 5-megawatt experimental reactor in Yongbyon and the reactor is expected to be reactivated within 1 to 2 months, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman said Thursday.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said North Korea's actions would raise ''serious non-proliferation concerns and are tantamount to 'nuclear brinkmanship'.''

ElBaradei cited North Korea's decision to resume operation of a nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant at Yongbyon, saying the facility, which can produce weapons-grade plutonium, is irrelevant to North Korea's ability to produce electricity.

North Korea has ''no current legitimate peaceful use for plutonium, given the status of its nuclear fuel cycle,'' ElBaradei said a statement released Thursday.

The IAEA spokesman said there appears to be no sign of activity at the radiochemical laboratory for nuclear reprocessing -- one most concerned by the IAEA.

With the additional 600 fuel rods, North Korea now has about 1,000 fuel rods at the associated nuclear fuel pond in the facility housing the 5-megawatt reactor, the IAEA spokesman said.

IAEA inspectors on the scene confirmed on Wednesday that 400 fuel rods were moved into the fuel storage facility.

The nuclear reactor can be fitted with 8,000 fuel rods.

Japanese nuclear experts say about 7,000 fuel rods are needed to operate the reactor. Other experts suggest that the reactor, which has been mothballed for eight years, may have become inoperative.

Although IAEA inspectors are still on site, their monitoring abilities are said to be rather limited without the cameras and seals.

The cameras had been monitoring North Korea's compliance with a 1994 agreement with the United States.

Under the accord, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for two light-water nuclear reactors and a supply of fuel oil until one of the reactors is completed and can deliver electricity.

The IAEA sealed the North Korean nuclear facilities at the time.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Geographic Code:9NORT
Date:Dec 30, 2002
Words:323
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