Nork nuke plant dilapidated
The nuclear power plant that North Korea has agreed to shut down in return for oil and other concessions is in such poor operating condition that Pyongyang may not be unhappy to give it up, according to informants who have been in North Korea or who have access to intelligence reports.The place sounds like a metaphor for North Korea. The country is a copy of the failed Soviet state that was also crumbling when it fell. It may have managed to extort its survival for a few more years, but it will still be a crumbling communist mess. Hugo Chavez should pay a visit and see how his economic dream comes true.
The informants said the plant's thick walls are crumbling, its machinery is rusting, and maintenance of the electric power plant, roads, and warehouses that sustain the nuclear facility has been neglected. North Korea's impoverished economy, they surmised, just cannot support the operation.
Moreover, the North Korean plant's technology is 50 years old and obsolete. It was acquired, possibly by Russian spies, by the Soviet Union from the British in the 1950s, then passed to North Korea in the 1980s.
No U.S. or U.N. official has visited the plant at Yongbyon since International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were barred from the site 60 miles north of Pyongyang in 2002, although the facility presumably is monitored by spy satellites.
Most experts think North Korea has extracted enough fuel from the site to produce up to a dozen nuclear devices, and that the material was used to conduct a partially successful nuclear weapons test in October last year.
"The reactor, storage pond and reprocessing facility were all functional" at that time, Jack Pritchard, a special envoy for negotiations with North Korea until September 2003 and a member of that team, said this week.
"They reminded [Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and another member of the team] of 1950s Soviet stuff, but still operational."
Mr. Pritchard said a separate 50-megawatt reactor under construction nearby "looked dilapidated, and I have my non-technical doubts about the North Koreans' ability to restart construction."