North Korea destroys cooling tower at nuclear plant


Verified Military
Sep 7, 2006
SEOUL: In a gesture demonstrating its commitment to halt its nuclear weapons program, North Korea blew up the most prominent symbol of its plutonium production Friday.

The 60 foot, or 18meter, cooling tower at North Korea's main nuclear power plant collapsed in a heap of shattered concrete and twisted steel, filmed by international and regional television broadcasters invited to witness the event.

The destruction of the tower, the most visible element of the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, about 100 kilometers, or 60 miles north of Pyongyang, bore witness to the incremental progress that has been made in U.S.-led multilateral efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

"As you all saw, the cooling tower is no longer there," Sung Kim, a senior U.S. State Department official who witnessed the blast from a hill, told South Korean television. "It's a very significant disablement step."

But some experts in South Korea saw little more than symbolism in Friday's event. They said the demolition, although dramatic, did not answer key questions, such as how many weapons North Korea has built or whether it has exported its nuclear technology to countries like Syria.

On Thursday, North Korea submitted its first significant — although partial — account of its arms programs. Almost simultaneously, President George W. Bush announced that Washington was removing North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, and issued a proclamation lifting some sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

The Yongbyon complex, built around a Soviet-era nuclear reactor, is the North's only known source of plutonium. North Korea had started disabling the reactor and other parts of the complex last year under an agreement with the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

Under the deal, North Korea has been receiving fuel aid from the five nations. But it was not obliged to destroy any of its nuclear facilities until further talks determine what rewards it will get in return.

South Korean and U.S. officials welcomed the early demolition of the cooling tower as an encouraging sign of North Korea's commitment to a broader deal under which Washington hopes to eradicate all the North's nuclear assets.

"By demolishing the tower, North Korea appears to demonstrate that it would not produce any more plutonium," said Kim Yeon Chul, a North Korea expert at the Asiatic Research Center at Korea University in Seoul.

The cooling tower carries waste heat from the reactor. While the Communist government kept its nuclear activities shrouded in secrecy, steam curling from the tower into the atmosphere was captured in spy satellite photographs, providing outside observers with the most visible sign of operations at Yongbyon.

The photographs reminded the rest of the world of the dangers of the operation. North Korea shocked the world in October 2006 by detonating a nuclear bomb in an underground test. It is also suspected by U.S. officials of providing nuclear technology to countries like Syria.

The tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild. North Korea also has been disabling — though not destroying — more sensitive parts of the nuclear complex, such as the 5-megawatt reactor, a plant that makes its fuel and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from its spent fuel.

"It's symbolic. But in real terms, whether demolishing or not a cooling tower that has already been disabled doesn't make much difference," said Lee Ji Sue, a North Korea expert at Myongji University in Seoul.

The demolition also shows that North Korea has concluded that the Yongbyon complex, in service for several decades, has served its purpose after producing an unknown number of nuclear weapons, Lee said.

U.S. officials have accused North Korea of hiding an uranium-enrichment program, a charge that the North's declaration on Thursday failed to address.


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An empty gesture at best. Where did all of their material go? How many bombs do they have? Did they sell anything to another country?
An empty gesture at best. Where did all of their material go? How many bombs do they have? Did they sell anything to another country?

Roger- where's the stuff they already made? My first guess was the cooling tower was probably f'd up anyway, and Li'l Kim was like, "go ahead and blow it up, and make a big symbolic deal out of it."
you dont need a cooling tower for a nuke plant or any power plant thats near water like that one. They can reroute the pipes that would go to the cooling tower (non nuclear water) and place them in the body of water. Now the ocean/lake water can be used as the heat sink instead of air that the towers rely on.
This is one step beyond what they agreed to.
They are dismanteling their reactor in an agreement with other parties (us included).
Lets be wary but encouraging, this is a good move people!

Walk softly and carry a big stick...