In ‘very disturbing’ move, North Korea appears to have restarted plutonium-producing reactor

Kim Jong-un on a television screen.

Kim Jong-un on a television screen. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea appears to have restarted its Yongbyon reactor, which produces plutonium and was likely shut down in December 2018. The Wall Street Journal reports.
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The International Atomic Energy Agency wrote in its annual report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities that “evidence has been forthcoming since early July, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the reactor’s operation.” There also appears to be evidence that a lab near Yongbyon is being used to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel previously removed from the reactor, the log reports. This is “deeply disturbing,” the watchdog said in its report, and in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The agency has not had inspectors in North Korea since 2009 when they were deported. The Biden administration has said it is ready to talk to North Korea about its nuclear program, and a senior US official told the log the report “underlines the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy so that we can achieve the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Experts estimate that North Korea has between 20 and 60 nuclear weapons that use plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stated in January that he wanted to modernize the country’s nuclear technology. In 2019, North Korea said it would close the Yongbyon reactor and additional facilities if the United States eased sanctions, but the offer was turned down by then-President Donald Trump, who said it didn’t go far enough.

Robert Einhorn, a former State Department official, told the log that “the resumption of operations at the reactor and reprocessing facility may be an indication” that the North Korean leader “sees little prospect of a nuclear deal”. read more Bee The Wall Street Journal.

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