SEOUL - September 13 - As new evidence reveals that uranium enrichment experiments in South Korea have been assisted by laboratories in the United States and Russia, Greenpeace is calling for an immediate end to international collaboration on plutonium and uranium enrichment denouncing such programmes as recipes for nuclear weapons proliferation and disaster. These experiments have sparked concerns over a nuclear weapons programme in South Korea.
According to the nuclear industry journal, Nuclear Fuel, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) benefited from the direct assistance of both the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLL) in California, where key Korean nuclear scientists were trained, and the Institute of General Physics in Moscow before carrying out experiments in producing nuclear weapons usable enriched uranium, in 2000.(1)
Nuclear non-proliferation policy is in chaos. Government labs and the international nuclear industry are helping countries access or produce nuclear weapons materials, technology and expertise. In this case South Korea has benefited. However, over the last two decades, its neighbour, Japan, has acquired a vast stockpile of nuclear weapons usable plutonium with direct US, French and UK involvement, said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International
In addition to assisting in uranium enrichment, since the early 1990s KAERI has been cooperating with Russia and Europe in the development of sensitive plutonium research. Greenpeace research has identified Korean cooperation in plutonium fast reactor fuel technology at the Dimitrovgrad facility in Russia, supported by the UKs British Nuclear Fuels, Frances Cogema and Japans Toshiba (2); and plutonium MOX fuel experiments in the SCK nuclear facility in Belgium, again with international assistance.
The consequences of these efforts, combined with North Koreas nuclear weapons program can only lead to nuclear escalation on the Korean peninsula and destabilisation of the whole of North East Asia unless there is a rapid change in global nuclear policy, said Burnie.
1 See Nuclear Fuel September 13th 2004
2 Plutonium fast reactor fuel development was conducted under the program, Fuel Pins with Vibropack Oxide Fuel for Plutonium and Transuranium Element Utilisation and Technology for Their Manufacture, at the nuclear laboratory, Dimitrovgrad-10, in Russia.
3 - Scientific partners testing plutonium MOX fuel in Belgium during the 1990s to the present include: Belgonucléaire (BN) -- Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) -- British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) -- Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) -- Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd (NFI) -- Electricité de France (EdF).
4 - KAERI has also sought to develop another advanced enrichment program after AVLIS tests, so-called AMLIS (Advanced Molecular Laser Isotope Separation), in a joint project with Lawrence Livermore, but this was blocked by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002. The U.S. lab is currently seeking to restart its own AVLIS program to purify plutonium for nuclear weapons use.