August 22, 2018 12:44
North Korea operated a 5MW reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear facility all the way through a flurry of diplomatic activity earlier this year aimed at persuading it to denuclearize, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
There are indications of "operations of a 5,000-kilowatt graphite-moderated reactor located in Yongbyon as well as a nuclear reprocessing plant facility over the past year," the Yomiuri Shimbun quoted the report as saying. "The continuation and further development of the nuclear program and related statements by [North Korea] are a cause for grave concern."
It also detected vapor or warm cooling water being discharged continuously. "Its operation has been suspended several times after the currently used nuclear fuel was put into the reactor in December 2015. This time, the burning of the uranium fuel is believed to have been conducted for a longer period compared to in the past," the report said.
"As the agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in [North Korea], its knowledge of [North Korea's] nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining," it added.
There were also are indications that the reprocessing plant at Yongbyon operated the steam superheater from late April to early May. President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the inter-Korean summit on April 27.
The steam superheater was used to prepare for or maintain the operation of the plant, the IAEA speculates. A water intake dam was built near the Yongbyon complex in the second half of last year in an apparent effort to improve the capacity of a light-water reactor and a graphite-moderated reactor that were under construction.
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