June 7, 2000
Mr. Richard A. Meserve
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555
Dear Chairman Meserve:
The State Department has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to train North Korean nuclear regulators who are arriving this month in the U.S. and to continue their training both here and in North and South Korea (see State Department letter, attached).
The NRC should understand that it cannot assume such a training assignment without undermining the integrity and regulatory independence of the Commission. At a minimum, such a Commission role in the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) reactor project creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. The NRC will be asked to judge independently the merits of U.S. nuclear export license requests to supply the KEDO reactor. Yet, if the NRC decides to train North Korean nuclear officials, though, it will be actively involved in supporting the project. In fact, some of the same people involved in the training of the North Koreans might well be asked to involve themselves in project-related export license reviews.
In addition, by training North Korean nuclear officials, the NRC will lend its good name to an inherently dubious, if not entirely disingenuous North Korean nuclear regulatory effort. In fact, these North Korean officials will be totally subservient, as all others are, to the North Korean state apparatus. No one, including the Commission, should believe that one of the world's most tyrannical regimes and worst violators of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards would allow a truly independent nuclear regulatory agency to be created in its country. Even the most massive amounts of NRC training could not change this.
Finally, I would call to your attention an example of the moral hazard the NRC faces, which is present in the State Department's written request. I refer to the reference made in the State letter to the idea that the reactors KEDO is building (and for which it will be seeking NRC-licensed exports) are "proliferation resistant" as compared to North Korea's indigenous reactors. In fact, because
the light water reactors will produce nearly ten times more power than all of the reactors North Korea has and planned to build, the KEDO reactors would produce nearly twice the amount of plutonium (i.e., approximately 60 bombs worth).
Because of all of these factors, NRC support of this project will draw critical attention from those most anxious to preserve the Commission's regulatory independence and integrity. My center, of course, remains interested in being kept informed of the Commission's decision regarding the NRC's support of the KEDO project.
cc: Commissioner Greta Dicus, Commissioner Nils Diaz, Commissioner Edward McGaffigan Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, The Honorable Fred Thompson, The Honorable Joseph Lieberman, The Honorable Jesse Helms, The Honorable Joseph Biden, The Honorable Benjamin Gilman, The Honorable Sam Gejdenson, The Honorable Tom Bliley, The Honorable John Dingell, The Honorable Ed Markey