September 22, 2021

North Korea restarts nuclear reactor: UN agency

Nuclear-armed North Korea has resumed its plutonium-generated re-processing reactor in “extremely troubling” development, the UN nuclear watchdog says Pyongyang is expanding its prohibited weapons program. ۔

Development of a 5-megawatt reactor at North Korea’s Central Nuclear Complex-Yangbyon has stalled with nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to remove part of the Yongbyon complex at the second summit with US President Donald Trump, but not other sites, in exchange for easing sanctions, and his offer was rejected.

North Korea is subject to a number of international sanctions on its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which have seen rapid progress in recent times.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its annual report that there had been signs of cold water leaks since early July.

The Yangbyon reactor has been inactive since December 2018, Friday’s report added.

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to remove part of the Yongbyon complex at the second summit in exchange for easing sanctions with US President Donald Trump, and his offer was rejected. Photo: KCNA VIA KNS / STR

IAEA inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009, and have since been monitored from outside.

The possible operation of the reactor follows a recent indication that Pyongyang is also using a nearby radiochemical laboratory to separate the platinum from the fuel emitted from the reactor.

The IAEA said the effects of the reactor and laboratory operation were “extremely disturbing”, adding that the activities were a “clear violation” of UN resolutions.

About 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, Yongbyon is the country’s first nuclear reactor, and the only known source of plutonium for North Korea’s weapons program.

Yongbyon is not considered North Korea’s only uranium enrichment facility, and shutting it down does not signal the end of the country’s nuclear program.

North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests during a diplomatic process in 2018 but said it was lifting its self-imposed embargo in January 2020.

It later launched short-range missiles but has not conducted a nuclear test since 2017.

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