North Korea could be close to a new Chernobyl-type disaster which could threaten 100 million lives, a new report has warned.
Safety shortcuts and poor maintenance are increasing concerns that the secretive regime is putting millions across Asia in ‘mortal danger’, says the study by Russia’s Oleg Shcheka, a professor of physics and chemistry.
Pyongyang’s desperate desire for nuclear energy is fuelling fears that another major accident similar to the one in Ukraine in 1986.
The country is apparently beset by power supplies and looking for alternative sources of energy.
Progress is being made on a 100 megawatt-thermal Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre, it is reported.
Professor Shcheka’s report warns that North Korea’s nuclear power stations were largely based on those of Russia, which in many cases trained its scientists.
Many reactors in the country are therefore likely to be similar to the Soviet RBMK-1000, the same model which malfunctioned so spectacularly in a region of the Ukraine 65 miles north of Kiev in 1986, Shcheka told North Korea watchdog, 38 North.
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‘Such a simple design feature, together with the desire to crank up more power to generate electricity, inevitably leads to an increased risk of disasters associated with human errors as well as imperfect operation and protection systems,’ said Shcheka.
‘The most tragic example is the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, when the plant’s staff, running the reactor in an experimental mode, made gross errors while manipulating the graphite moderators of neutrons.
‘The concern is that the North Koreans may attempt to launch nuclear power plants with substandard and poorly tested reactors.’
The warning comes just a week before the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, arguably the world’s best-known nuclear disaster.
The claim comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to meet US president Donald Trump at a summit which will focus on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
North Korea is ready for ‘complete denuclearisation’, South Korean leaders have claimed.
The summit, a time and place has yet to be announced, comes after a war-of-words between Pyongyang and Washington.
President Trump has called his counterpart ‘little rocket man’.
However, it was recently revealed that CIA director Mike Pompeo has made a secret trip to meet Kim Jong-un in North Korea.