Activity has been observed at a nuclear site in North Korea that might suggest the regime is restarting a nuclear reactor, says the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano.
Amano said he was “seriously concerned” after satellite imagery appeared to show the research reactor at the Yongbyon complex being brought back to life after five years of inactivity. It is thought the reactor is capable of producing plutonium for nuclear bombs.
“Activities have been observed at the site that are consistent with an effort to restart the 5MW(e) reactor, but as the agency has no access to the site, it is not possible for us to conclusively determine whether the reactor has been re-started,” said Amano to the 35-nation board of the IAEA in Vienna.
The reactor at the Yongbyon site is thought to have been dormant since the North Korean regime disabled the cooling tower there in 2008 as a confidence-building measure in talks with the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. However, it had declared in April of this year that it planned to re-start the reactor, and in July said it would need its nuclear “deterrent” for as long as Washington maintained a “hostile policy” towards it.
North Korea has long resisted international pressure to renounce its nuclear agenda. It is thought that the regime now has enough fissile material for up to 10 nuclear bombs, but that it lacks the capability to deploy them as warheads.