Jeffrey LewisGet Il and Disabled, All At Once

I am doing Bloggingheads with Jackie Shire this morning — I’ll let you know when it is posted. I am wearing my Get Il T-shirt for the occasion.

We are going to talk about a lot of things, including the disablement of North Korea’s reactor. I can’t find anyone to tell me what the steps are. And my sources, too, seem left if the dark.

All I’ve seen so far is this press availability with Sung Kim — who said the Chinese might announce the steps:

MR. KIM: We have a common understanding and a set of meanings of disablement steps. I’d rather not get into the details of those steps. I think the Chinese, as the head of the denuclearization working group and as head of the Six Party process, maybe at a later point or at an appropriate point will provide more details.


QUESTION: Is there any estimate as to how, once this process is carried forward significantly, how long it would take North Korea to actually get these facilities, if they decided to do that, back up and running and producing nuclear materials?

MR. KIM: Again, as I said, we believe we have a set of very meaningful disablement steps. I think it would take them a considerable amount of time to reverse the disablement.

QUESTION: Can you describe how you would disable? Would it be with concrete? What do you do? You go in and do what to disable it?

MR. KIM: There are various steps that would be taken. Some involve removing equipment. Some involve cutting certain types of equipment. I think, as I said, we will defer to the Chinese to make some details available to you later, at an appropriate point. Our main focus is to get there and start the operation as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Do you expect to have the initial list of declaration while you are there?

MR. KIM: I don’t know. It would be nice. But we don’t know at this point.

QUESTION: U.S. [inaudible] issued a report on disablement written by David Albright. He said that you agreed on only the first step out of ten steps for disablement. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. KIM: I don’t want to get in to an argument with David Albright. I can tell you that our experts believe that we have a set of very meaningful, substantial disablement steps, and that’s what we will pursue. And we have to accomplish those before the end of the year.

From his reference to “cutting,” I suspect they are cutting the drive chains per the DOE paper that I posted on the site, On the Issue of Initial Disablement Activities at a Reactor.

As far as I can tell, this is still the only document on the subject that any of us have been able to acquire, or at least acquire and be willing to distribute to the community.

DOE proposed cutting the drive chains as an interim measure, followed by “additional disablement functions” including disabling the cooling tower, the fuel rod handling machine and “after verification and nuclear forensics are complete” dismantling or permanently entombing the reactor pile.

(You can read more on disablement from David Albright.)


  1. Engineer Mike (History)

    The latest (publicly) from China on releasing the “disablement” procedures.

    China says disclosure of DPRK nuclear disablement measures needs consensus

    Should make interesting reading.

  2. PC (History)

    Chris Hill gave a couple basic descriptions of steps during a weekend briefing. He refers to “cutting” specifically in relation to the reprocessing facility.

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, again, we have at least 10 different disabling steps, and one of the first steps will be dealing with the reprocessing facility. And I believe we’re cutting some chains that go to that, cutting some means by which they move radioactive material in the reprocessing center. The second thing — and the thing we need to get going on very quickly — is that the pond where you put the discharged fuel is extremely dirty with a lot of radioactivity. So we need to clean that up. We need to clean it up for health purposes, because we’ll have Americans there and also North Koreans. We don’t want anyone getting radiation sickness. Also, when we get to the point where we take these spent fuel rods and try to send them to some place, we want that place to be willing to accept them. So the cleanup of this pond is going to be important. And this is not a process that’s going to end in a couple of days or a couple of weeks. It’s going to take a lot longer.

    QUESTION: So they are going to take out the fuel rods from the reactor?

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Yes, they have to remove the so-called discharging of the fuel. And then a second element: of course, we want to make sure they don’t have some ready availability of new fuel — because that would not be disabling; that would just be recharging. So we have some very specific ideas for how to make sure there is not an additional amount of fuel. So it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of painstaking work. And I think we will look forward to having all the participants in the Six Parties involved in this. I know that Japan will look very carefully at its ability to participate in this.”

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    That’s a really good catch.

    I’ve been told that Sung Kim’s reference to cutting also meant the reprocessing facility.

    Damn, my readers are good.

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