WASHINGTON New commercial satellite imagery indicates North Korea has resumed operation of a reactor at its main nuclear site used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program, a U.S. think tank said on Friday.
Washington’s 38 North North Korea monitoring project said previous analysis from Jan. 18 showed signs that North Korea was preparing to restart the reactor at Yongbyon, having previously unloaded spent fuel rods for reprocessing to produce additional plutonium for its nuclear weapons stockpile.
“Imagery from January 22 shows a water plume (most probably warm) originating from the cooling water outlet of the reactor, an indication that the reactor is very likely operating,” it said in a report.
It said it was impossible to estimate at what power level the reactor was running, “although it may be considerable.”
North Korea has maintained its nuclear and missile programs in violation of repeated rounds of international sanctions.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish)