N Korea to restart nuclear reactor
Seoul, April 2, 2013
North Korea will restart its shuttered Yongbyon nuclear reactor, its official KCNA news servce said on Tuesday, a move that could enable it to extract more plutonium to bolster its atomic stockpile for use in nuclear weapons.
The announcement came after the North's leader Kim Jong-un declared at a policy-setting meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Sunday that the country would bolster nuclear power and develop the economy.
North Korea will rebuild and restart nuclear facilities including a mothballed uranium enrichment facility and a 5 MW reactor, both in Yongbyon, KCNA quoted a spokesman at its atomic energy agency as saying.
Pyongyang is estimated to have enough fissile material to build up to eight nuclear bombs, although estimates vary.
According to estimates from the Institute for Science and International Security from late 2012, North could have enough weapons grade uranium for 21-32 nuclear weapons by 2016 if it used one centrifuge at its Yongbyon nuclear plant to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.
"The General Department of Atomic Energy...decided to adjust and alter the uses of the existing nuclear facilities, to begin with," KCNA reported.
It said the nuclear facilities would be used for both electricity and military uses.
It was not clear how long it would take to restart the reactor, whose cooling tower was blown up in a made-for-TV event in 2008 under an agreement to suspend the atomic complex. There have been reports of construction work near where the tower once stood but it was not clear whether the North was rebuilding it. - Reuters