Washington-based North Korea observers 38 North said poor safety standards, combined with a lack of cooperation and transparency between Pyongyang and the West, made the nuclear reactors a real threat.
They issued a warning in a statement entitled “North Korean Nuclear Reactor Safety: The Threat No One is Talking About”.
38 North said: “It is extremely fortunate and perhaps surprising that a major nuclear accident has not yet occurred in North Korea.
“It is in everyone’s interest to prevent such an accident from occurring; ensuring nuclear safety is one of the few truly universal policy imperatives.”
The watchdog called for nuclear safety talks between North Korea and the West – for both sides’ benefit.
38 North said: “The opening of nuclear safety talks with the North to help prevent such an accident from occurring would provide a rare opportunity for regional dialogue and could pry open the door for realistic and productive discussions of North Korea’s nuclear program.”
38 North said: “Kim’s recklessness is certainly notable, and it hints at an underemphasised and potentially devastating possibility: the threat of a nuclear accident in North Korea.
They said an actual incident may initially be small but the contamination could spread – with international panic made worse by Pyongyang’s secrecy.
The statement warned: “While the actual contamination would be localised, the lack of transparency from North Korea in dealing with the situation is likely to cause political panic in the region in excess of the actual radiological exposure and environmental impact.”