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S. Korea builds IAEA laboratory for safeguards inspections


South Korea has completed building a laboratory that can check samples for minuscule amounts of radioactive material, boosting inspection and non-proliferation capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the country's nuclear watchdog said Wednesday.

The Clean Laboratory for Analysis of Safeguards Samples (CLASS) will soon begin receiving test samples from the IAEA and help determine any violation of IAEA safeguards, according to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

The IAEA endorsed the country's membership in the IAEA network of analytical laboratories (NWAL) in December after confirming the South Korean laboratory's capability to detect and weigh 1 nanogram (one-billionth of a gram) of uranium and 1 picogram (one-trillionth of a gram) of plutonium in any given sample.

"With the construction of the laboratory, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute will be able to start receiving IAEA samples within the year and begin its analysis of international inspection samples, and also join the NWAL in the area of particle analysis following its membership in the area of bulk analysis," the commission said in a press release.

Particle analysis helps determine whether a country reprocessed spent fuel, possibly to generate weapons-grade nuclear material in violation of IAEA safeguards protocol, by analyzing radioactive isotopes whereas bulk analysis only determines the weight or amount of radioactive materials or particles present in given samples, according to the commission.

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