North Korea's Yongbyon reactor shut down

16 July 2007

North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, which produced the plutonium used in last year's weapons test, was shut down on 14 July.

North Korea's move has been confirmed by a team of ten International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, who recently returned to the country after five years of exclusion.

IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said: "Our inspectors are there. They verified the shutting down of the reactor." He added: "It's a step in the right direction."

The shutdown was negotiated in February by the Six Parties - China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and the USA - and meant to be carried out in April. However, 'give and take' process faced problems and uncertainty for weeks before $25 million belonging to North Korea could be released by a Macau bank. The money had been frozen by US Treasury officials as part of an unrelated investigation.

Another pre-condition from the North Korean side was a shipment of 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, supplied in recent days by South Korea.

Now that Yongbyon is closed, IAEA workers will carry out checks and install seals and monitoring equipment at the facility in a process set to take about a month. The next step from North Korea should be a full declaration of its nuclear activities.

Officials in the West suspect North Korea may have an as-yet undeclared uranium enrichment program.

In return for a complete list of facilities, which would then be inspected, it is likely that economic sanctions against North Korea could be relaxed and more normal diplomatic relations restored. The USA could also publicly acknowledge the change of attitude in North Korea, which was included in President George Bush's 'Axis of Evil'.

Repesentatives of the Six Parties have planned to convene in Beijing, China later this week. According to the February agreement, the IAEA could eventually oversee the dismantling and removal of allweapons-usable nuclear materials and equipment from North Korea.

Further information

International Atomic Energy Agency

WNA's Iran, North Korea & Iraq - Implications for Safeguards information paper

WNN: UN inspectors visit North Korea
WNN: North Korea get its $25 million
WNN: Yongbyon shutdown deadline 14 April
WNN: North Korea agrees to nuclear disarmament

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