Magazine article Arms Control Today

IAEA: N. Korean Reactor Likely Restarted

Magazine article Arms Control Today

IAEA: N. Korean Reactor Likely Restarted

Article excerpt

North Korea probably has restarted a reactor that produces plutonium suitable for weapons, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Independent analysts reached a similar conclusion in September.

In a Nov. 28 statement at the quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, Director-General Yukiya Amano said that activities at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear site captured on satellite imagery are "consistent with an effort to restart" the reactor. But lack of access makes it impossible to "conclusively determine" that the reactor was restarted, Amano said. North Korea currently does not permit the IAEA to inspect its facilities.

Last April, Pyongyang said it intended to rebuild and restart the reactor at the Yongbyon site. (See ACT, May 2013.) The reactor, built in the 1980s, provided North Korea with the plutonium that it separated for use in its nuclear arsenal, an amount estimated to be sufficient for six to 12 warheads.

North Korea disabled the reactor in 2007 and destroyed the reactor's cooling tower in 2008 as part of an agreement reached in 2005 with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States in the so-called six-party talks. It was unclear if North Korea would be able to operate the reactor after these actions. Satellite images taken in August, however, indicated to independent analysts that Pyongyang was able to restart the reactor. (See ACT, October 2013.)

The activities at Yongbyon "indicate a continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons," said Joseph Macmanus, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, in a Nov. 28 statement to the board. He said if North Korea does not comply with its international obligations to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Pyongyang will "continue to face the consequences of this defiance." The United States will work to "maintain and enhance, as necessary, the pressure to compel North Korea" to abandon these activities, which damage the global nonproliferation regime, Macmanus said. …

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