Study urges greater N Korea nuclear disablement

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WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) North Korea's partners in the six-party disarmament pact should press Pyongyang in negotiations to accept greater degrees of disablement of its nuclear facilities, a study said today.

The study by nuclear experts at the Institute for Science and International Security said an agreement reached this month to disable three major facilities at North Korea's nuclear center at Yongbyon appeared adequate for the short-term.

But the authors, physicist and ISIS president David Albright and researcher Paul Brannan, said the US-led disablement process will need to push for deeper, more permanent moves to eliminate North Korea's nuclear programs.

It appears to have been difficult to convince North Korea ''to carry out disablement steps that significantly damage their nuclear facilities,'' they wrote.

''However, future negotiations should continue to press for greater disablement of facilities, leading toward their dismantlement,'' said the study, published by the US Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

North Korea agreed in February in talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States to give up its nuclear weapons and facilities in exchange for aid and diplomatic recognition.

MAKING IT HARD TO RESTART Pyongyang reached an agreement this month with those five countries to disable by the end of this year its antiquated, Soviet-era nuclear reactor, a plant that produces fuel rods and another that turns spent fuel into arms-grade plutonium.

In future phases of disarmament, ''nuclear weapon production facilities, nuclear weapons themselves, and any operating uranium enrichment plants and associated facilities would be expected to be disabled,'' said the study.

ISIS defines disablement as actions that make it difficult and time-consuming to restart a facility -- steps it says must ''go beyond simply shutting down, sealing, and monitoring a facility.'' Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, and Brannan recommend broad principles as well as specific technical steps to disable the North's nuclear equipment.

Disablement steps should not make it more difficult to later decommission a facility, they should keep environmental, safety and health standards and they should not destroy evidence needed to verify North Korean statements, they wrote.

The study says that because nuclear facilities deteriorate quickly without constant upkeep, assisting disablement, the United States should insist on ''maintenance for environmental, health and safety concerns, but little other maintenance.'' Technical recommendations on measures that would speed or strengthen disablement, such as pouring concrete or adding chemicals to reactor components, are spelled out in the study, posted at REUTERS SZ PM0125

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