North Korea preparing to produce plutonium in Yongbyon?

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un

Refusing to confirm whether North Korea was resuming plutonium production, South Korean government on 8 June said it was watching its neighbour’s movements with concern.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that North Korea may have reactivated a plant for reprocessing plutonium for use in nuclear weapons on 6 June.

Stating that North Korea was using spent nuclear fuel to process plutonium at its Yongbyon facility, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said, there are indications of activities related to the five MW reactor, expansion of enrichment facilities and activities related to (plutonium) reprocessing.

Refusing to say when the activity was spotted, Amano said, “There is movement spotted at the main Yongbyon complex, including “movement of vehicles, steam, discharge of warm waters or transport of material.” The facility was closed down in 2007, according to media reports.

US experts said the recent satellite pictures showed two rail flatcars loaded with tanks or casks near the Yongbyon complex’s radiochemical laboratory.

Until recently, there was no proof the reactor was fully operational in Yongbyon facility, said Bong Youngshik, senior research fellow, Asan Institute for Policy Studies told VOA. North Korea, which conducted its fourth underground nuclear test in January, wants to extend the capability of its ballistic missiles, against various UN resolutions.

In view of the recent speculation, North Korea is preparing for a fifth nuclear test. “Conducting another nuclear test, may make the Xi Jinping government angry, said Youngshik.

Like the Iranian programme, the Yongbyon facility uses technology obtained from AQ Khan, who developed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.