The U.N. atomic agency says North Korea appears to have restarted the operation of its main nuclear reactor used to produce weapons fuels. The annual report by the International Atomic Energy Agency refers to a 5-megawatt reactor at the North’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon. Yongbyon’s radiochemical laboratory is a facility where plutonium is extracted by reprocessing spent fuel rods removed from reactors. The Yongbyon complex also produces highly enriched uranium. The complex, which North Korea calls “the heart” of its nuclear program and research, has been at the center of international concerns for decades but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not had access to Yongbyon or other locations in North Korea since the country kicked out IAEA inspectors in 2009. The IAEA now monitors North Korea from afar, largely through satellite imagery.
North Korea is believed to be running multiple other covet uranium enrichment facilities. North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. In recent months, North Korea has warned it would expand its nuclear program if the United States doesn’t withdraw its “hostile” policy on the North. Earlier this month, Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, said North Korea would bolster “absolute deterrence” to cope with intensifying U.S. threats. Since taking office, the Biden administration has completed a review of its North Korea policy and insisted that it remained open to talks.