Light Water Reactors and Nuclear Weapons in North Korea:
Let's Be Fair With Our Comparisons

By David Albright and Holly Higgins
October 27, 1999

On October 13, 1999, Congressman Christopher Cox (R-CA) said before a Hearing of the House International Relations Committee on "US Policy Towards North Korea:"

These light-water reactors will produce weapons-grade nuclear material. And in fact, according to the...Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI], North Korea's light-water reactors...will accumulate plutonium and spent fuel at the rate of about 490 kilograms per year. That translates to about 100 bombs per year. Prior to the Agreed Framework...North Korea could produce from the other reactors about 12 bombs per year. So we are actually putting North Korea in a position to accumulate more material. The report [SIPRI] says, "After the LWRs start up, North Korea will accumulate plutonium in spent fuel at the rate of about 490 kg per year. Because this quantity is so large, North Korea will need to provide nuclear transparency to ensure that diversion does not occur." 1

ISIS Response

We are flattered that Congressman Cox used information in our book, published by SIPRI and Oxford University Press. However, we wish he had used all the information in this chapter rather than just a small fraction of it. The message is quite different when all the information is considered. 2

Plutonium Production

Clandestine Plutonium Production

1 chapter 10, p.307, SIPRI report Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium 1996: World Inventories, Capabilities and Policies by D. Albright, F. Berkhout, W. Walker. Back to document

2 Only one of us (Albright) wrote that particular chapter of this book, so these comments reflect ISIS's views and not those of the other co-authors. Representative Cox also characterized SIPRI as a "leftist group." We cannot speak for SIPRI, which published our book, but the technical information in the book, such as the amount of plutonium produced and separated, is independent of political affinity. Back to document