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North Korea resumes plutonium production

August 17, 2016

N. Korea confirms restart of plutonium production



PYONGYANG (Kyodo) -- North Korea confirmed Wednesday it has resumed plutonium production and said it has no plans to stop nuclear tests as long as perceived threats from the United States continue.

"We have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor," the Atomic Energy Institute, which holds jurisdiction over North Korea's main nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex, said in a written interview with Kyodo News.

In its first-ever response to foreign media questions, the institute also said North Korea has been producing highly enriched uranium necessary for nuclear arms and power "as scheduled."

The institute, however, stopped short of disclosing the amount of plutonium or enriched uranium North Korea has produced, saying it wants to leave that to the assessments of Western experts.

There had been some indications of renewed activity at the nuclear complex, cited by foreign officials and security experts based on satellite imagery in recent months.

In February, U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said in a report to Congress that North Korea could recover plutonium, the core material of a nuclear bomb, from the reactor's spent fuel within weeks to months.

The comments from the Atomic Energy Institute mark the first clear confirmation by North Korea of the new reprocessing since it vowed in 2013 to restart the 5 megawatt reactor and other nuclear facilities at the key complex that were shut down under an agreement reached in the six-party talks in 2007.

The resumption of the program means that North Korea will be able to produce more nuclear weapons, although it has been subjected to multiple U.N. sanctions for its tests of atomic and missile technologies.

The research center did not rule out the possibility of conducting a fifth nuclear test and claimed that North Korea has already succeeded in "minimizing, making lighter and diversifying" nuclear weapons.

"Under conditions that the United States constantly threatens us with nuclear weapons, we will not discontinue nuclear tests," it said.



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