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N. Korea maintained nuclear reactor, reprocessing plant: IAEA.

TOKYO, March 14 Kyodo

North Korea did maintenance work on its experimental graphite-moderated reactor and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant even after signing a 1994 non-nuclear pact with the United States freezing the facilities, an International Atomic Energy Agency spokesperson said Friday.

Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the U.N. nuclear watchdog, told Kyodo News the facilities were serviced under observation by the IAEA in line with the Agreed Framework concluded between Washington and Pyongyang.

''The maintenance...activities had been permitted under the Agreed Framework and between the IAEA and DPRK (North Korea) during monitoring of the freeze,'' Fleming said.

The Agreed Framework requires North Korea to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities in return for provision of two light-water nuclear reactors and arrangements for interim energy alternatives.

But the document does not have specific stipulations pertaining to maintenance work at nuclear facilities in North Korea.

Fleming said the maintenance work was done several times on an experimental 5-megawatt graphite-moderated nuclear reactor and on a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, the last time in May or June last year.

The U.S. has warned of the possibility that North Korea may reactivate the reprocessing facility.

In December, Pyongyang broke IAEA seals at its nuclear facilities, removed monitoring equipment and expelled IAEA monitors from the country.

On the reprocessing plant, Fleming said the facility has not been completed yet, but pointed out, ''Part of the plant which was tested in 1990 to produce a small quantity of plutonium is capable of being used if necessary to produce limited quantities of plutonium.''

But she refrained from commenting on how long it might take to produce plutonium if the reprocessing plan was reactivated.

She explained that there was less maintenance work done at the reprocessing plant because most of its areas had been sealed by the IAEA, but refrained from elaborating on exactly what constituted maintenance work.

Nuclear energy experts have said the reason North Korea was able to reactivate its experimental reactor only about two months after breaking the seals was that it was conducting maintenance work on the facilities even after their operations were frozen under the Agreed Framework.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Geographic Code:9NORT
Date:Mar 17, 2003
Words:365
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