The Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea—back in business and making plutonium, based on IAEA analysis.Keith Luse, Senior Professional Staff Member, U.S. Senate
Although North Korea has had a string of bad luck with its only suspected nuclear-capable ballistic missile—which had four failed test launches in the last two months—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is clearly intent on shifting its nuclear capabilities into overdrive. On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that North Korea’s government had apparently re-activated the nuclear fuel production reactor at Yongbyon—the plant responsible for the creation of plutonium used in the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program.
The analysis by the IAEA, as IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said during a news conference on Monday, pointed to “resumption of the activities of the five megawatt reactor, the expansion of centrifuge-related facility, [and] reprocessing—these are some of the examples of the areas [of activity indicated at Yongbyon].” In this instance, “reprocessing” refers to the extraction of plutonium from irradiated uranium fuel.
These conclusions were reached based on satellite imagery, as North Korea has denied IAEA inspectors access to the plant. But if the IAEA is correct, the expansion of the centrifuge facility would indicate that North Korea is preparing…