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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Work underway on N Korea reactors
The nuclear plant development at Kumho
About $1bn has already been spent on the project
An international project to build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea has taken a symbolic step forward with the concrete-pouring ceremony on the foundations of the main power plant buildings.

1994 Agreed Framework
West to supply fuel oil and build 2 nuclear reactors
N Korea to freeze suspected nuclear weapons programme
N Korea still has to allow in UN weapons inspectors
US fears N Korea had extracted plutonium for 2 nuclear bombs before 1994
The $4.6bn project is being constructed at the village of Kumho on North Korea's eastern coast.

It is a result of a 1994 agreement under which North Korea suspended its suspected nuclear weapons programme averting a potential nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Around 150 representatives from the international organisation responsible for building the plant - the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (Kedo) and journalists have travelled to the north for the ceremony.

Kedo executive director Charles Kartman said the project was not simply about building nuclear reactors.

"This project is about preserving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," he said.


The ceremony marks a milestone in the project to build two nuclear reactors in North Korea.

Map of North Korea showing Kumho
The 1,000-megawatt light-water reactors will produce less weapons-grade material than the North's mothballed graphite nuclear reactors.

Senior representatives from Kedo and its executive board - including members from the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea - have headed a delegation at the ceremony which signals the start of work on the installation at the isolated site.

About $1bn has already been spent on the project, including levelling hills and putting in infrastructure where none existed.

But the project has been dogged by delays, including rows over wages for North Korean workers and it is already well behind its original target date of 2003.

The ceremony comes as the reclusive North has shown fresh signs of wanting to re-engage with the outside world including holding high-level talks with the United States and Japan.

Jack Pritchard, US envoy on Korean affairs and the most senior official to visit the North since 2000, said it was now up to North Korea to keep its side of the agreement.

"It is now time for us to see the same kind of tangible progress by (the North) in meeting its commitments," Mr Pritchard said.

Some analysts in the US remain sceptical about the project and have called for it to be scrapped or halted until Pyongyang allows international nuclear inspectors into the country to search for any evidence of its suspected atomic weapons programme.

Under the 1994 agreement the UN inspections must be completed before key components for the reactors are delivered.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"It was a highly symbolic ceremony"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

See also:

07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
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03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
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