Watchdog sees signs North Korea has restarted nuclear reactor
An international watchdog says there are signs indicating North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor that is used to produce fuel for weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wrote in its annual report, dated Friday, that there have been “indications” at the Yongbyon Experimental Nuclear Power Plant in North Korea that are “consistent with the operation of the reactor,” including the discharge of cooling water.
Those indications have been seen since early July, according to the report. The agency said it did not observe any indications that the reactor was operating from early December 2018 to the beginning of last month.
The reactor, according to The Associated Press, produces plutonium, which is one of the two ingredients needed to make nuclear weapons; the other is highly enriched uranium.
The report also said that the steam plant that serves as the Radiochemical Laboratory at the Yongbyon site was operating for approximately five months, from mid-February to early July. That time frame, according to IAEA, is consistent with previous reprocessing campaigns announced by North Korea that took place in 2003, 2005 and 2009 that addressed irradiated fuel from the reactor.
The group wrote that North Korea’s nuclear activities “continue to be a cause for serious concern” and are “a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
The IAEA has not had access to the Yongbyon site or other facilities in North Korea since the country forced inspectors out in 2009, the AP noted.
The group said it used high-resolution commercial satellite images, both optical and radar, to monitor North Korea’s nuclear program.
The IAEA report comes amid a stalemate in nuclear talks between North Korea and the U.S.
President Biden’s special envoy to North Korea last week called on the country to restart nuclear talks with the U.S., after having discussions with officials in South Korea regarding the stalled discussions.
North Korea, however, has said it wants international sanctions lifted before resuming talks with the U.S.