October 22, 2004
Representative Cho Seung-soo of the Democratic Labor Party and the environmental group Green Korea United said yesterday that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute had produced anti-tank shells in the 1980s made from depleted uranium, alloyed with titanium.
They claimed that the Ministry of Science and Technology had hidden the fact.
In response, the ministry said, “We applied for an inspection waiver for development of uranium armaments and received permission in 1987.” The ministry said that it has discussed the production with the United States from an early stage.
The ministry said the shells were destroyed in 1989 with U.S. Embassy officials present when they no longer had commercial value. Depleted uranium is a dense, non-fissile metal.
S Korean munitions violated N-accord
The News International
October 22, 2004
SEOUL: South Korea produced anti-tank munitions in the 1980s using depleted uranium imported for non-military use and failed to make required disclosures, a South Korean lawmaker and an environmental group said on Thursday.
A government official said depleted-uranium munitions were produced for five years and the government had told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1987 when the programme was ended.
Depleted uranium is a by-product of nuclear fuel production. It can be used to strengthen ammunition and enable it to penetrate armour.
The disclosure comes at a sensitive time for South Korea, which said in September some of its scientists had enriched a small amount of uranium in 2000 and separated plutonium in 1982.
The government said scientists purely out of curiosity conducted those tests, although the IAEA said the failure to disclose them was a matter of serious concern.
South Korea is involved in international efforts to get communist North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions but the North has said it would not resume talks until an investigation of the South tests was complete.