The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on December 12, 1985. North Korea ratified its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in April 1992, five years later than the deadline stipulated by the NPT, and soon after provided the IAEA with an initial declaration of its nuclear activities.
The IAEA conducted several ad hoc inspections at Yongbyon to verify the completeness and correctness of the initial declaration. These revealed inconsistencies in information on nuclear material production and reprocessing activities which led IAEA Director-General Hans Blix to request special inspections of undeclared locations. North Korea rejected this request. In February 1993, the IAEA Board of Governors set a one-month deadline for access and threatened "further measures" by the UN Security Council if North Korea failed to comply. The DPRK refused to do so, which led the Board of Governors to report this non-compliance to the UN Security Council. Subsequent UNSC actions then led to a decision by North Korea to withdraw from the NPT and prompted the United States to enter into negotiations with the DPRK. These talks eventually led to the signing of the Agreed Framework on October 21, 1994.
Under the Agreed Framework, the DPRK agreed to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors and related facilities at Yongbyon and Taechon. These facilities are the DPRK's 5-megawatt experimental reactor, reprocessing plant, fuel fabrication plant, and two other reactors which were under construction in 1994. The DPRK also affirmed its NPT member status, committed itself to come into compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement at a later date, agreed to implement the North-South Denuclearization Agreement, and agreed to work with the U.S. to store and dispose of the spent fuel from the 5-megawatt reactor in a safe manner.
In exchange, the United States agreed to lead an international consortium to oversee and finance the construction of two 1000-megawatt light water reactors (LWRs), to compensate the DPRK for energy foregone by providing 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil annually (beginning in October 1995) until completion of the first LWR, and to take steps to reduce economic and financial restrictions on the DPRK.
Under the Framework, the DPRK is not required to come into full compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement until a significant portion of the first LWR is completed. However, this must take place before key nuclear components are delivered. Without increased cooperation between the DPRK and IAEA well in advance of that time the delivery of key components will be delayed. Although progress has been made, the IAEA has been unsuccessful in gaining the DPRK's full cooperation in preserving essential historical information on reactor operation and plutonium separation.
In accordance with the Agreed Framework, North Korea froze construction and operations at its Yongbyon and Taechon nuclear facilities. The freeze remains in place and the IAEA has maintained a continuous presence at these sites since 1994 to monitor it.
North Korea agreed to accept the decisions of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), the financier and supplier of the LWRs, with respect to provision of the reactors. On March 19, 1996, KEDO designated the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) as the prime contractor in building the LWRs. KEDO subsequently identified a location near Sinpo as the LWR project site and held a groundbreaking ceremony in August 1987. In December 1999, KEDO and KEPCO signed the Turnkey Contract (TKC), permitting full-scale construction of the LWRs to proceed.
In January 1995, as called for in the Agreed Framework, the U.S. and DPRK negotiated a method to store safely the spent fuel from the five-megawatt reactor. As provided for in this agreement, U.S. and DPRK operators worked together to can the spent fuel and store the canisters in the spent fuel pond under IAEA seal. Actual canning began in 1995. The canning of all accessible spent fuel rods and rod fragments was completed on April 21, 2000.
The Agreed Framework bars the DPRK from constructing any new graphite-moderated reactors or related facilities, to include reprocessing plants. U.S. identification in mid-1998 of an underground site near Kumchang-ni in North Korea, which was suspected of being nuclear-related, led to the negotiation with the DPRK of an arrangement providing for U.S. access to the site as long U.S. suspicions remained. On the basis of visits to the facility in May 1999 and in May 2000, the United States concluded that the site as then configured was not suited to house a nuclear reactor or reprocessing operations and therefore was not a violation of the Agreed Framework. In the U.S.-DPRK Joint Communiqué issued in October 2000, following the visit of DPRK Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok to Washington, it was stated that "U.S. concerns" about Kumchang-ni had been "removed."