South Korean officials say they have confirmed that North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor that had been shut down in 2007. The news bolsters reports last month that the reactor was operating once again.
In April, North Korea said it would restart the reactor to aid its nuclear weapons program, as NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports for our Newscast unit:
“South Korea’s National Intelligence Service delivered a report to a parliamentary intelligence committee saying that North Korea’s five-megawatt plutonium reactor at Yongbyon has resumed operations.
“The U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore cited commercial satellite images last month showing steam coming out of the reactor, suggesting it was up and running again.
“The U.S. and South Korea see the restarting of the reactor as contradicting North Korea’s claims that it’s willing to return to nuclear disarmament talks.”
In the past, the Yongbyon facility has been used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. Its cooling tower was destroyed in 2008, as part of an international non-proliferation agreement.
“This is the reactor that essentially produced the material to build North Korea’s nuclear weapons in the past,” Joel Wit, a senior fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, told NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel last month.