North Korea's Corroding Fuel

David Albright, "North Korea's Corroding Fuel," Science & Global Security, 5, no. 1, (1994): 89-97.
The roughly 8,000 irradiated or spent fuel rods recently discharged from the North Korean 25 megawatt (thermal) reactor are difficult to store safely under the conditions in the spent fuel ponds near the reactor. The magnesium alloy jacket, or cladding, around the fuel elements is corroding. If the corrosion creates holes in the cladding, radionuclides may be released. In addition, the uranium metal underneath the cladding may begin to corrode, possibly creating uranium hydride which can spontaneously ignite in air. Unless the storage conditions are improved, North Korea may use the risk posed by the corrosion as an argument for reprocessing this fuel, a violation of its June 1994 pledge to the United States to freeze its nuclear program. North Korea, however, can take several steps to slow dramatically the rate of corrosion. Using available techniques, it can extend safe storage times by months or even years.

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