North Korea Appears to Have Restarted Nuclear Reactor, UN Says

North Korea appears to have restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor that is believed to produce plutonium after being inactive since December 2018, the United Nations (UN) atomic agency said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its annual report that the five-megawatt nuclear reactor appears to have been reactivated in July.

“Since early July 2021, there have been indications, including the discharge of cooling water, consistent with the operation of the reactor,” the report said.

IAEA also said that a radiochemical laboratory at the same complex had been operating for around five months, from mid-February 2021 until early July 2021.

According to the IAEA, it was the first sign of operational activity at the reactor since December 2018, months after former United States President Donald Trump met with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

IAEA said that the developments at the reactor and the laboratory were “deeply concerning” and “a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

North Korea is under several sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

The South Korean foreign ministry told Yonhap News Agency that the government “is continuously monitoring the North’s nuclear and missile activities in close cooperation with the United States.”

The South Korean defense ministry similarly told the Yonhap News Agency that it was “closely following” the North’s nuclear activities in “close coordination” with the U.S.

IAEA based its report on satellite imagery and other sources. It has been monitoring North Korea’s nuclear program from the outside after the country expelled the agency’s inspectors in 2009.

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