Monday, September 26, 2016

North Korea Plutonium Fuel Production Starts Again

North Korea Plutonium Fuel Production Starts Again

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The North Korean nuclear plant, which was shut down by international agreement, has apparently reopened. Experts have claimed that the plant, which had previously produced plutonium fuel for nuclear weapons for North Korea has reopened.

On Tuesday, a senior US State Department official said that North Korea has restarted production of plutonium fuel.  This would indicate its plans to pursue its nuclear program defying international sanctions. The US claim came after UN watchdog’s statement that it had “indications” that North Korea has reactivated a nuclear plant, as per Reuters report.

The nuclear plant is part of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and is situated 60 miles north of Pyongyang. It had a 5-megawatt nuclear plant and plutonium reprocessing center. The plant was decommissioned in 2007, reported PM. Although the country claimed that it was used only for research purpose now, experts believed that it was used for the production of plutonium fuel for nuclear weapons.

The US official whose name was not revealed told Reuters that the US is worried about  North’s reopening of the plant.

The US official said, “Everything in North Korea is a cause for concern. They take the spent fuel from the 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon and let it cool and then take it to the reprocessing facility, and that’s where they’ve obtained the plutonium for their previous nuclear tests. So they are repeating that process. That’s what they’re doing.”

Last year the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which do not have an access to North Korea but can monitor it through satellite, stated that the country had resumed its activity  at Yongbyon.

Noteworthy, nuclear weapons can be produced using either uranium or plutonium fuel. Plutonium is  preferable between the two as it needs less material to create a bomb. This also indicates that a plutonium-fueled weapon will be smaller and lighter than a uranium bomb. It has been estimated that the North Korean plant could produce up to 6 kilograms of plutonium per year. The amount will be enough for two nuclear weapons.