UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has confirmed that North Korea appeared to resume activities this year aimed at producing plutonium, which can be used in the core of an atomic bomb, though it says that signs of those activities stopped last month.
IAEA report says that Yongbyon was operating and that it was working to improve the “quality and quantity” of its nuclear weapons. It has since carried out what is widely believed to have been its fourth nuclear test.
The IAEA, which has no access to North Korea and mainly monitors its activities by satellite, says that it had seen signs of a resumption of activity at Yongbyon, including at the main reactor.
There were signs the reactor had been running in the past year, with a pause between October and December, probably to refill it with enough fuel for the next two years, according to the IAEA report.
North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute, which has jurisdiction over Yongbyon, also informed media that it had been producing highly enriched uranium necessary for nuclear arms and power “as scheduled”.
N. Korea vowed in 2013 to restart all nuclear facilities, including the main reactor at its Yongbyon site that had been shut down and has been at the heart of its weapons programme.