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IAEA: North Korea Apparently Restarted its Yongbyon Nuclear Reactor

IAEA: North Korea Apparently Restarted its Yongbyon Nuclear Reactor
folder_openKoreas access_timeone month ago
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By Staff, Agencies 

UN’s nuclear watchdog cautioned that North Korea appears to have restarted its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon after an almost three-year pause.

In its annual report, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] highlighted that “Monitoring of the site through satellite imagery showed indications that the five-megawatt reactor was put back in operation as of early July after apparently being idle since December 2018.

The agency further underscored that “since last month, there have been discharges of cooling water “consistent with the operation of the reactor.”

The UN nuclear watchdog pointed out, however, that it “cannot confirm either the operational status” of the facilities listed in the report, or the “nature and purpose of activities conducted therein.” The IAEA heavily relies on satellite imagery and so-called “open source information” in its reporting on the reclusive nation. The agency’s inspectors were expelled by Pyongyang in 2009. 

The continuation of the country’s nuclear program would be a “clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions, the IAEA said. “The DPRK’s nuclear activities continue to be a cause for serious concern,” the agency added. “Furthermore, the new indications of the operation of the... reactor and the radiochemical laboratory are deeply troubling.”

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to resume testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles after suspending the program ahead of de-nuclearization talks with then-president Donald Trump in 2018.

However, the historic US-North Korea summit in Singapore in June 2018 and a further one in February 2019 in Hanoi did little to advance the de-nuclearization cause. The negotiations have stalled after Washington demanded that Pyongyang dismantle its nuclear program before granting even partial relief of its crippling sanctions.