An abundance of coal and water resources has allowed North Korea to build a well-developed electrical power network. North Korea's preeminence as an energy producer began during the Japanese occupation with the Sup'ung Hydroelectric Plant, located in the northwest; at the time the plant was the largest of its kind in Asia. North Korea supplied more than 90 percent of the electricity in the Korean Peninsula before partition.
Since the 1970s, the country has increasingly turned to coal as an energy source. Compared with hydroelectrical plants, coalbased thermal plants can be built at locations near industrial and population centers at lower initial costs, require shorter construction time, and are not subject to instability arising from periods of drought.
Thermal plants tend to be less efficient and have higher operating costs. North Korea's installed generating capacity was estimated at 7.14 million kilowatts in 1990, with 60 percent-- 4.29 million kilowatts--from hydropower and the remainder from thermal sources. With output estimated at 50 billion kilowatthours (Kwh) and 55 billion Kwh, in 1984 and 1988, respectively, the Second Seven-Year Plan target of 56 billion Kwh to 60 billion Kwh had not yet been fulfilled five years after the plan had ended. It is therefore unlikely that the 1993 target of 100 billion Kwh will be realized.
The only oil-fired thermal plant is at Unggi, near the Russian border. The 200-megawatt plant receives its fuel oil from the nearby Unggi refinery, which uses crude petroleum imported from Russia.
In the early 1990s, many power plants were under construction, including the T'aech'n power station, in the northwest, reportedly to be the largest hydroelectric plant in North Korea when completed. Other large-scale projects include the Kmgang-san, Hch'n, Nam-gang, Kmyagang, and Orang-ch'on plants. In addition, thermal power plants such as the East P'yongyang Power Plant and the Hamh ng Power Plant were under construction in the early 1990s. Four large hydroelectric plants- -some built with Chinese aid--are situated along the Yalu River; they supply power jointly to both countries.
In 1986 the Soviet Union announced that it was building a 1,760-megawatt nuclear power plant in North Korea. According to South Korean sources, the construction of the plant began in 1990 in the Sinp'o District. Completion of the plant, originally targeted for 1992, is in doubt because of pressure exerted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and termination of assistance from the former Soviet Union, which is burdened with its own economic difficulties. Wood-burning is still significant for domestic heating and related purposes.
There are no domestic oil reserves. The capacity of North Korea's two oil refineries totals 4.5 million tons a year. Oil is imported from China and the Soviet Union by pipeline, and from Iran by sea. Because both Russia and China have insisted on hard currency payments at international prices for oil since 1991, Iran is becoming the major oil source under a 1989 agreement to supply 40,000 barrels of oil per day.
|Country Studies main page | North korea Country Studies main page|