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UN agency concerned by removal of monitoring equipment at DPR of Korea nuclear site

UN agency concerned by removal of monitoring equipment at DPR of Korea nuclear site

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today voiced its concern over the decision by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to remove surveillance equipment and security seals at its Nyongbyong nuclear facility.

Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the Vienna-based Agency, said the DPRK has made it clear “that they want to restart those facilities and they've begun the process of removing seals, which were tools that we use to ensure that facilities, canisters are not tampered [with], doors are not opened, without us knowing.”

“Now we don’t have that ability anymore,” he said in an interview with UN Radio.

Over the weekend, the IAEA reported that seals in the 5MW(e) reactor’s spent fuel pond, containing some 8,000 irradiated fuel rods, have been removed, and the functioning of essential surveillance equipment “has been impeded.”

“As the spent fuel contains a significant amount of plutonium, the DPRK’s action is of great non-proliferation concern and represents a further disruption of the IAEA’s ability to apply safeguards in the DPRK,” the Agency’s Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, said on Sunday.

“Such containment and surveillance equipment plays an essential role in allowing the IAEA to confirm under the Safeguards Agreement with the DPRK pursuant to the Non Proliferation Treaty that nuclear material in the fuel rods has not been diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” he added.

Over the past few weeks Mr. ElBaradei has been urging the DPRK not to take any unilateral action, allow the implementation of IAEA surveillance and containment measures and agree to an early meeting to discuss how the IAEA can safeguard the facilities that were subject to a freeze under the 1994 US-DPRK Agreed Framework as they become operational.

“It is deplorable that the DPRK has not responded to repeated requests I have made to DPRK for an urgently needed discussion on safeguards issues in the DPRK in order for the DPRK to come into compliance with its NPT Safeguards Agreement,” Mr. ElBaradei said.