September 14, 2022 13:12
North Korea is still operating a uranium enrichment facility at the Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Pyongan Province, the chief of the UN nuclear watchdog has warned.
Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the IAEA, was speaking at a meeting of its Board of Governors on Monday. Gossi said there are also signs of activity at the Kangson enrichment site and constant preparations for a nuclear test at tunnels Nos. 3 and 4 at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
All the evidence points to North Korea planning a fresh nuclear test, perhaps to develop tactical nuclear weapons.
"There are ongoing indications that the 5 MW(e) reactor is operating, and we have observed indications of intermittent activity at the radiochemical laboratory consistent with possible waste treatment or maintenance activities," Grossi said.
"We have observed the completion of several new buildings near the light water reactor. At the 50 MW(e) reactor, construction of which stopped in 1994, we have observed the dismantling of buildings and the removal of some material, likely for re-use in other construction projects."
That suggests that North Korea has already acquired nuclear weapons materials through the extraction of plutonium. There is also a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon.
"We have observed indications that the reported centrifuge enrichment facility at Yongbyon continues to operate and is now externally complete, expanding the building's available floor space by approximately one-third," he added. "There are also ongoing indications of activities at the Kangson complex and the Pyongsan mine and concentration plant."
Grossi added that tunnel No. 3 at the Punggye-ri site has been reopened. "While we have not observed extensive work at the test site during the summer months, we continue to observe indications that the site remains active and prepared to support a nuclear test," he said. "We have very recently observed renewed work on the road leading to [tunnel No. 4]. The reopening of the nuclear test site is deeply troubling."
Grossi pointed out that the nuclear program "is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions." The IAEA "continues to maintain its enhanced readiness to play its essential role in verifying [North Korea's] nuclear program."
Meanwhile, Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general of the IAEA, told Voice of America, "Why they are working with tunnel 4 is that they plan to have several nuclear tests."
"Weather conditions are getting better in end of September and October, so that will certainly have some impact on the test," he added.
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