Kim Jong Un orders nuclear energy ministry to visit candidate sites for new nuclear power plant

North Korea’s interest in nuclear energy is aimed at expanding the production of electricity needed to carry out the country’s five-year plan

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently ordered the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry to visit two or three candidate sites for the construction of a nuclear power plant and submit action plans.

This development comes as Kim calls for the building of nuclear power plants to solve North Korea’s chronic energy shortages.

According to a Daily NK source in Pyongyang on Friday, Kim approved a working-level plan on Apr. 24 to focus state resources on the nuclear energy industry. North Korea’s interest in nuclear energy is aimed at expanding the production of electricity needed to carry out the country’s five-year plan, which started in 2021 and is expected to end in 2025. 

The source said the party called for the creation of a “launchpad” to resolve the energy issue in “a groundbreaking way” by beginning the construction of a nuclear power station for power generation using the “scientific basis indigenously developed over the last 10 years based on [North Korea’s] autonomy and inalienable right to make peaceful use of the atom.” 

According to the source, the plan approved by Kim calls for discussion of working-level plans to improve energy production based on making the atomic energy sector more Juche-based, modern, scientific, and self-reliant. It simultaneously called on experts to visit two or three candidate sites for the nuclear power plant and submit follow-up plans by early October.

Kim’s call to conduct feasibility reviews of candidate sites is the first step in picking an optimal site to build a nuclear power station, but also reveals North Korea’s intention to gradually build even more nuclear power stations.

Within the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, officials are promoting the order as a reflection of the party’s decision to greatly develop the nuclear power industry, while also claiming that North Korea’s belt tightening to develop the nuclear sector since the “Arduous March” was not just to build nuclear weapons, but also to expand production of electricity “desperately needed for people’s lives.” 

North Korea’s leadership presented plans to bolster energy production to overcome chronic electricity shortages during the Eighth Party Congress in January of last year. However, with repairs underway at existing thermal and hydroelectric power stations due to antiquated equipment, the country’s electricity generation has slowed. 

The source said North Korea has responded to the drop in electricity production by ordering the indigenous construction of reactors to raise the percentage of power generated by nuclear energy, formally entrusting the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry with the task.

North Korea has issued a directive calling for nuclear experts, scientists, and technicians to take part in the electricity expansion plan overseen by the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry. The directive has instructed experts to participate in visits to candidate sites, and calls for technical research into the light-water reactors the new plant would require. 

The source said the party plans to build about seven or eight nuclear power plants to defeat “enemy” sanctions and schemes to isolate and “crush” North Korea. He said the party is emphasizing that the electricity expansion plan is significant for future generations because it would allow people to live “civilized” lives with electrical lights 24 hours a day and open the way for North Korea to become a major economic power.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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