Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center - History

History

Construction of the 5 MWe experimental reactor began in 1980, and the reactor first went critical in August 1985. This reactor was an initial small technology proving reactor for a following development program of larger Magnox reactors. It operated intermittently until 1994 when it was shut down in accordance with the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework. Following the breakdown of the Agreed Framework in 2002, operation restarted in February 2003, creating plutonium within its fuel load at a rate of about 6 kg per year. The reactor fuel was replaced between April and June 2005. The spent nuclear fuel has been reprocessed with an estimated yield of about 24 to 42 kg of plutonium metal, some of which was used for the nuclear weapons involved in the 2006 and 2009 North Korean nuclear tests.

Yongbyon is also the site of a 50 MWe Magnox prototype power reactor, but construction was halted in 1994 about a year from completion in accord with the Agreed Framework, and by 2004 the structures and pipework had deteriorated badly. This construction was being dismantled in 2010.

Another 200 MWe Magnox full-scale power reactor was being constructed at Taechon, 20 km north-west of Yongbyon, (39°55′41″N 125°34′08″E / 39.928°N 125.569°E / 39.928; 125.569) until construction was also halted in 1994 in accord with the Agreed Framework. By 2005 reconstruction of this reactor was uneconomic.

The reactor designs were based on declassified information about the British Magnox design at Calder Hall and elsewhere, and the spent fuel reprocessing plant on the multi-national European Company for the Chemical Processing of Irradiated Fuels (EUROCHEMIC) plant at Mol-Dessel in Belgium.

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