Academic journal article North Korean Review

Another Way to North Korea's Denuclearization: Multilateral Approach to Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Academic journal article North Korean Review

Another Way to North Korea's Denuclearization: Multilateral Approach to Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Article excerpt

Introduction

The six-party talks have been suspended since North Korea's withdrawal in April 2009 to protest the UN Security Council's condemnation of l ong-range missile launches in a presidential statement. To solve North Korea's nuclear problem, the deadlock in the negotiations with the North should first be broken in the near future. Once the six-party talks resume, the primary discussion could focus on how to denuclearize the North. In order to achieve such an objective, it will be essential to disDepartment

mantle its nuclear weapons program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner. In addition to removing the nuclear material and infrastructure, irreversible dismantling of the North's nuclear weapons program would require a redirection of the North's nuclear workers to other civilian occupations.

While dealing with the North's nuclear problem, it will be important to assure the North of a sustainable energy supply for supporting its economic growth. In the present context, nuclear energy is the single huge, economical, and reliable energy source. A constant supply of nuclear energy without proliferation risk would help to eradicate the necessity and false excuses of its indigenous nuclear development program. However, the international society will hesitate to do this because the North has previously attempted to mislead them into believing that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Therefore, revisiting 1994's Agreed Framework between the U.S. and North Korea could be considered. However, it has several weaknesses: First, it cannot resolve a serious concern regarding the North's intention to divert the spent nuclear fuel discharged from the nuclear power plants, since they are located in the North; second, the North cannot effectively handle the central issue related to the irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear program, which is the diversion of its nuclear workers to other civilian occupations; third, such an approach will involve a heavy financial burden on only three countries (Korea, the U.S., and Japan) that took part in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization; and fourth, it is not clear whether the approach would be acceptable to the North. The North Korean Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which Kang proposed as a way to redirect the North's nuclear workers, could also be considered.1 However, Kang's proposal is not a comprehensive approach to the North's nuclear problem, since it simply focused on the relocation of the nuclear workers.

Hence, a new comprehensive approach is needed that allows the North an opportunity to reap the benefits of its nuclear energy program according to Article IV of the Nonproliferation Treaty but prevents the North's nuclear workers from conducting clandestine nuclear activities. To achieve such an objective, an approach similar to the "multilateral approach to the nuclear fuel cycle" could be a solution. The multilateral approach to the nuclear fuel cycle has been proposed and widely discussed since Mohamed El-Baradei, the former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called for the creation of "a new mechanism that will assure supplies of nuclear fuel and reactors to countries which want them, while strengthening nonproliferation through better controls over the sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle." This paper reviews the previous proposals of the multilateral approach to the nuclear fuel cycle which have been recommended since 2003 and proposes a comprehensive multilateral approach to solve North Korea's nuclear problem.

Multilateral Approach to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The anticipated increase in global energy demand would result in the expansion of nuclear energy use worldwide, mainly due to the construction of nuclear power plants in countries that do not currently have established nuclear industries. This could result in the worldwide dissemination of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies because most countries would aim for local development of these sensitive technologies. …

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