North Korean-Taiwan nuclear waste deal thwarted over export permit

By Michael Rank

A Taiwanese report says one reason the North Korean nuclear waste deal fell through was that Taipower didn’t obtain an export permit for the waste from the Taiwanese Atomic Energy Council (AEC).

It also says that Taipower claims no final deal was ever signed, so there is no question of the agreement being violated. It quotes Taipower official Huang Tien-huang as saying the North Koreans blocked them from viewing the processing site at Phyongsan (Pyeongsan, 평산, 平山), while the AEC also had procedural problems with the North Koreans, leading it to refuse an export permit.

North Korea has hired a (presumably Taiwanese) lawyer, Tsai Hui-ling, to plead its case, and is claiming NT$300 million (US$10 million) compensation. Tsai can be seen on this English-language video clip.

A PRC report quoting Taiwanese reports says the first stage of the deal worth US$75.66 million envisaged shipping 60,000 barrels of nuclear waste, and a further 14,000 barrels in the second stage, with a total value of $150 million and that the North Koreans were after the deal as a source of foreign exchange at the height of the famine. There have been ten rounds of negotiations to try to resolve the dispute, the report says, adding that Taiwan decided in 1999 that it would process the waste domestically.

As I reported in 2008, North Korea signed a deal with a Chinese company to recycle industrial waste that is so polluted that other countries have refused to handle it.

A slightly fuller Chinese report than the one I cited earlier names the Chinese company involved as Dalian-based Huatai Recycling Resources Co Ltd and says it has close links with the North Korean National Defence Commission, foreign ministry, environment ministry and foreign trade ministry.

It also says the North Koreans have four large recycling sites at Sinuiju and Nampo, two for lead batteries and two for electronic goods, and that they are able to recycle a wide array of equipment, from plastics to refrigerators as well as computers, phones and scanners, including goods that are banned for recycling in China.

It is not clear if the Chinese-North Korean deal was actually implemented.