T he UN’s nuclear watchdog said late on Monday that North Korea appears to have resumed production of plutonium, the key ingredient in nuclear weapons, at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Recent satellite images indicated “activities related to the five-megawatt reactor, expansion of enrichment facilities and activities related to reprocessing,” IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told a news conference in Vienna.
“There are indications the reprocessing plant at Yongbyon has been reactivated,” a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later told Reuters. “It is possible that it is reprocessing spent fuel.”
The IAEA has no access to North Korea and is mostly reliant on satellite monitoring of the activity at Yongbyon.
38 North, a Korea-focused website run by Johns Hopkins University, on May 31 said recent commercial satellite imagery revealed North Korea “is preparing to commence or has already begun conducting a reprocessing campaign to separate more plutonium for nuclear weapons” at Yongbyon.
At maximum capacity, the Yongbyon plant can process enough plutonium to make two nuclear warheads.
The Yongbyon plant was mothballed between 2007 and 2013 under a disarmament-for-aid deal struck between the ‘sunshine’ era of detente between North and South Korea.
North Korea announced last September it had reactivated the Yongbyon facility, Reuters reports.
State newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday reports North Korea will develop more nuclear weapons, according to South Korea’s state Yonhap News agency.
38 North has this detailed assessment of recent satellite imagery.