The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors were expelled by Pyongyang in 2009, has warned in its latest annual report on North Korea it appears that after an almost three-year pause, the country has restarted its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, BBC reports.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog that now relies heavily on satellite imagery and open source information in its reporting, has said that satellite imagery showed indications of the five-megawatt reactor that produces plutonium- one of the two key ingredients to build nuclear weapons – being back in operation as of early July after apparently being idle since December 2018.
Its annual report comes as Pyongyang openly threatens to enlarge its nuclear arsenal amid long-dormant nuclear diplomacy with the US.
Pointing that it’s unable to confirm the operational status of the facilities listed in the report or the nature and purpose of activities conducted therein, the agency notes in its report that there have been discharges of cooling water consistent with the operation of the reactor since last month.
The IAEA says that continuation of Pyongyang’s nuclear program would be a clear violation of UNSC resolutions, noting that DPRK’s nuclear activities continue to raise serious concern.
The agency points the new indications of the 5 months long operation of the reactor and the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory are deeply troubling since the timeframe suggests reprocessing work may have been done to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel in a time that uranium mining work appears to be active as well.
After the historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore in June 2018 and the one in February 2019 di nothing to advance the de-nuclearization cause, Pyongyang noted it has no interest in resuming the nuclear talks unless Washington changes its hostile policy towards DPRK that insists Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program before even partial relief of its crippling sanctions is granted.