North Korea to restart atomic reactor

This would allow it to resume production of weapons-grade plutonium

Updated - November 16, 2021 10:05 pm IST

Published - April 02, 2013 03:35 pm IST - Seoul

North Korea plans to restart a nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon complex, which would allow it to resume production of weapons-grade plutonium, a media report said Tuesday.

The 5-megawatt plant in the north-west would be refurbished and restarted “without delay,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, citing the General Department of Atomic Energy.

It was closed as the result of international >six-party talks in 2007.

The talks involving the Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan about ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme have been stalled since 2009.

Yongbyon had a stockpile estimated at 8,000 spent fuel rods in 2009, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. North Korea is thought to have used plutonium from the facility for nuclear test explosions in 2006 and 2009.

A third test in February, which led to the strengthening of international sanctions against the isolated Stalinist state, is thought to have used uranium according to some experts.

Pyongyang said on Tuesday it would also be restarting the uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon, which it revealed in 2010.

Enriching plutonium requires a nuclear reactor, while uranium is enriched in centrifuges, which are relatively easy to conceal from international monitors.

North Korea’s arsenal is estimated at between two and nine warheads, armed with plutonium, according to the US-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Britain’s Chatham House puts the number at between 6 and 12.

KCNA said Tuesday that resuming enrichment at Yongbyon would boost the country’s electricity generation capability as well as its nuclear weapons programme.

The impoverished nation has a very limited power supply and suffers frequent power cuts.

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