Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Candu reactors in Korea

Yonhap online has an article about Canadian and Korean scientists working to refurbish Korean CANDU reactors.

What is a CANDU reactor? You obviously aren't Canadian - we were taught throughout our school years that CANDU reactors were the best in the world. From the Nuclear Threat Index:
CANDU is the most efficient of all reactors in using uranium: it uses about 15% less uranium than a pressurized water reactor for each megawatt of electricity produced Use of natural uranium widens the source of supply and makes fuel fabrication easier. Most countries can manufacture the relatively inexpensive fuel There is no need for uranium enrichment facility Fuel reprocessing is not needed, so costs, facilities and waste disposal associated with reprocessing are avoided CANDU reactors can be fuelled with a number of other low-fissile content fuels, including spent fuel from light water reactors. This reduces dependency on uranium in the event of future supply shortages and price increases.

They were great stuff in the '70's, when i first learned of them in school. They are still good, just a little old.

Korea has at least four of them. I have a tenuous connection with them. One of my Seoul students was an ajuma who traveled to Port Elgin, Ontario for a year with her husband, who trained on our reactors and I live some what near Port Elgin. Is tenuous too strong a word?

Anyway, while googling a bit for this post, I read disturbing news from the Rathbone Press (From an article dated Feb, '04):

The Asian Pacific Post reported last month that a French-Canadian nuclear engineer who was working on Canadian Candu reactors in South Korea was befriended by North Korean agents seeking western technological and scientific secrets. The meetings at the Nashville Restaurant and Bar in the Itewon district of Seoul were observed and reported by a contract intelligence operative working for the U.S. government. A second unidentified Canadian who was working on the Candu reactors in South Korea also met with the North Korean spies. The startling revelations that Canadian nuclear secrets may have been compromised came in the wake of North Korea's stunning admission that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons. I have been to Nashville Bar in Itaewon many times. It's staggering to think in this very place Canadian scientists may have been selling nuclear secrets to North Korea. What is more surprising is why this is not front page news in Canada or South Korea. International news agencies such as CNN have also not mentioned this development.

We should not just be worried about Pakistani or Canadian scientists assisting North Korea. Many South Koreans are sympathetic to the North and corruption is rampant in the ROK. When we think of how turncoat spies such as Robert Kim are admired in South Korea, how many South Koreans view a nuclear North with misplaced pride, and how many South Koreans perceive America as a greater threat to them than North Korea, the idea of selling South Korea nuclear reactors, in retrospect, seems extremely reckless. In any case, specialized knowledge from South Korea's Canadian-purchased CANDU reactors may be already helping the North develop nuclear weapons and that should be enough cause for concern.

So it's possible that we assisted both North and South Korea with their nuclear programs.

Going off my original topic of Canadian/South Korean nuclear reactors, I am surprised by the Pakistani connection. If I have it right, some Pakistanis helped North Korea with the physics of making a reactor, then the North Koreans sold bomb material to the Pakistanis. And I thought Pakistan was America's number 3 Muslim ally, behind Saudi and Kuwait.

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