North Korea ‘restarts’ nuclear reactor used to make plutonium

New satellite images indicate North Korea has restarted a reactor at a site used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons programme, a think tank has said. US-based 38 North, which monitors the secretive communist state, said images taken on 22 January suggested operations at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre had resumed and could be running at a “considerable” level. In a report, it said the pictures show “a water plume (most probably warm) originating from the cooling water outlet of the reactor, an indication that the reactor is very likely operating.”

Activity at the site remains unclear except to reaffirm that the Yongbyon facility remains the centre of North Korea’s nuclear programme.

38 North

The think tank’s latest report comes days after China banned the export of plutonium to North Korea. In a statement, the Chinese commerce ministry said other prohibited exports included technologies which could aid Pyongyang’s programmes to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the missiles to deliver them. Just hours after his inauguration, Donald Trump announced plans to develop a “state-of-the-art” missile defence system to protect the US against attacks from Iran and North Korea.