North Korea appears to be ramping up its nuclear reactor

Experts are concerned: Through satellite images, they have detected indications that a North Korean nuclear reactor has been operating again for weeks. The facility can provide plutonium for atomic bombs.

North Korea According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (International Atomic Energy Agency) may have restarted the nuclear reactor at the controversial Yongbyon Nuclear Center. With a production capacity of only 5 megawatts, the reactor is small, but it can provide plutonium for the production of atomic bombs. “There have been indications since the beginning of July 2021, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor,” said an IAEA report on developments in North Korea since September 2020.

South Korea At first he did not want to confirm the IAEA’s information about the reactor. The government monitors North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities in close cooperation with United States of AmericaA spokeswoman for the Ministry of Unification said. The IAEA report was presented to the agency’s board of governors on Friday.

Independent verification is not possible

In addition, according to the report, the radiochemistry laboratory in Yongbyon, which serves as a facility to reprocess used crane fuel rods, was operated from mid-February to early July. References to operations in the reactor and laboratory are “extremely concerning”. The agency bases its observations on purchased images from commercial satellites. An independent review of North Korea’s nuclear activities has not been possible since the country expelled international nuclear inspectors from the country a few years ago.

One of the last photos of Yongbyon factory from 2008: At that time the cooling tower was blown up.  (Source: dpa / Gao Haorong / Xinhua / AP)One of the last photos of Yongbyon factory from 2008: At that time the cooling tower was blown up. (Source: Gao Haorong / Xinhua / AP / dpa)

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In March, experts at the North Korean news website 38 North at the US Stimson Center reported on operations in the lab. Accordingly, images had already shown in January that North Korea was preparing to resume work. The reprocessing process produces, among other things, plutonium.

The country is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons programme. Inside a– A report in February said North Korea was pressing ahead with the program despite sanctions.


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