North Korea's Alleged Operational Second Reactor Raises Nuclear Concerns

Recent reports from the UN nuclear watchdog and independent experts suggest that North Korea has initiated operations at a new reactor within the Yongbyon nuclear complex. This reactor could potentially produce plutonium, fueling concerns about the nation's nuclear weapons program, according to Reuters.

For years, North Korea has used spent fuel from a 5-megawatt reactor in Yongbyon to produce plutonium for its nuclear arsenal. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted a noticeable leak of hot water from a larger reactor, hinting at potential activity within. Rafael Grossi, the agency's head, highlighted that this water discharge implies a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in the reactor.

However, due to lack of access since 2009 when Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors, the agency relies on satellite imagery to monitor North Korea. While the IAEA couldn't confirm the reactor's operational status, observations of substantial water leakage from the cooling system since October suggest ongoing activity.

Experts from the Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation Research in California also indicated that the reactor was likely operational, warning that it could become a "significant source of nuclear material" in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

Analysis from the Institute for Science and International Security suggests that this light-water reactor could significantly increase plutonium production, potentially escalating North Korea's nuclear stockpile. Estimates vary, suggesting the country may possess anywhere from 31 to 96 nuclear warheads based on weapon types and fuel usage.

These developments follow North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's recent statement regarding an intercontinental ballistic missile test,...

Continue reading on: