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IAEA: North Korean Nuclear Reactor Used To Make Plutonium Appears Active

North Korea appears to have restarted operations at a power plant capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that clues, such as the discharge of cooling water, observed in early July indicated the plant is active. No such evidence had been observed since December 2018, the IAEA said. The findings, published Friday in an annual report on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, were “deeply troubling” and “a cause for serious concern” according to the agency.

Photo by Vietnam News Agency/Handout/Getty Images

The IAEA said there also were signs of activity at the nearby radiochemical laboratory, from mid-February until early July. The power plant is used to make nuclear fuel, and the radiochemical laboratory is used to reprocess the fuel rods from the plant into plutonium that can, theoretically, be used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.

“The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” the report added, referring to North Korea by its official acronym, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The IAEA and other independent analysts have previously reported on the observed activity at the radiochemical laboratory and believed it may have been part of a campaign to turn nuclear fuel into plutonium for nuclear weapons. The South Korean Foreign Ministry said it is observing North Korea’s nuclear and missile activity continuously under close cooperation with the United States.

President Biden’s administration has made several attempts to reach out to North Korea by email to start discussions with Washington, a senior South Korean official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN. North Korea has acknowledged receipt of the emails, the official said, but did not feel compelled to respond due to what is seen as a lack of a detailed agenda or any serious indication the US is willing to move the conversation forward from what was agreed upon at Trump and Kim’s first summit in Singapore in June 2018.

 



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