South Korea’s spy agency reported that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor in their main nuclear facility. Pyongyang has threatened to do so since last April, after their third nuclear test, and satellite photos show that the plant may be operating already.
Seoul’s National Intelligence Service said during a closed-door meeting with the parliamentary committee that they have sources that say the five-megawatt reactor in the Nyongbyon complex has been restarted. The office of lawmaker Cho Won-jin confirmed the findings of another lawmaker Jung Chung-rae. They also say that several long-range missile engine tests were done by North Korea at a northwestern site in August, indicating that the reclusive state has no intentions of stopping their nuclear tests. What is seen also as a probable act of provocation is that they have moved their artillery systems closer to the border between the North and South, although they have not detected any significant movement from the North’s military.
The nuclear reactor, which can be weaponized to make atomic bombs, went offline due to the now-stalled nuclear disarmament deal, in exchange for humanitarian aid for the North. If it is indeed now operating, it can produce 6 kilograms of plutonium per year, enough to make one or even two nuclear bombs. Some analysts have said that Pyongyang already has enough plutonium to make anywhere between 4-8 crude weapons. Earlier this week, their military said that in light of the trilateral maritime drills participated in by Japan, South Korea and the United States, they have been given “emergency orders” to look at their operation plans and get ready for any incidents that will come out of those drills. But South Korean and US officials said the drills are just part of the improvement in response to maritime disasters.
[ via Kyodo News ]