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IAEA: 'Indications' North Korea Reopened Plutonium Plant

  • VOA News

FILE - A satellite image provided by GeoEye shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.

FILE - A satellite image provided by GeoEye shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog says North Korea appears to have reopened a plant to reprocess plutonium, an indication the communist country is widening its arms effort.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday satellite evidence shows North Korea has likely resumed activities at a plant at Yongbyon to produce plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel.

The information matches evidence found by the U.S. monitoring website 38 North, which reported in April that exhaust plumes had been detected from the thermal plant at Yongbyon's main reprocessing installation.

IAEA head Yukiya Amano says because the agency does not have monitors in North Korea, it cannot be certain about the North's activities.

"As we do not have inspectors on the ground we are only observing through satellite imagery. We cannot say for sure. But we have indications of certain activities through the satellite imagery," Amano told a regular news conference in Vienna.

In February, the director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, told U.S. lawmakers that North Korea could be weeks or months away from recovering plutonium from Yongbyon.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test in January and followed it with a long-range rocket launch a month later, drawing tougher sanctions from the United Nations.

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