North Korea has resumed operations in the countrys main nuclear reactor. This is reflected in the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) annual report.
The reactor in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, is produced according to the IAEA plutonium. Plutonium and highly enriched uranium are the key ingredients to create nuclear weapons. “Since the beginning of 2021, there have been evidence, such as the discharge of cooling water, indicating the reactors operation,” writes the IAEA. According to them, the reactor was certainly active from mid-February to early July this year.
The atomic agency calls North Koreas nuclear activities “very disturbing”. The Yongbyon complex is the heart of North Korean atomic program. It is not clear how much highly enriched uranium and plutonium was produced in the complex and where North Korea stores it.
IAEA inspectors have been unable to access the nuclear reactor or other locations in North Korea since 2009. The Agency therefore used widely accessible sources and satellite imagery for the report to monitor developments in North Koreas nuclear programme.
Twenty to sixty nuclear weapons
The Biden government was actively trying to connect diplomatically with North Korea since mid-February. Bidens predecessor Donald Trump spoke to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un personally at three summits. At the beginning of 2019, Kim offered to close the entire complex, in exchange for comprehensive sanctions relief.
But the Americans did not agree with the offer because North Korea would yield only part of its nuclear capacity with the closure of Yongbyon.
Presumably there are several installations in the country where uranium is enriched. In 2018, South Korea estimated that North Korea made at least twenty to sixty nuclear weapons.