Satellite pix suggest N. Korea reactor shut down – US think-tank
SEOUL, South Korea – Recent satellite images suggest North Korea may have shut down the nuclear reactor seen as its main source of weapons-grade plutonium, a US think-tank said Saturday, October 4.
The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said any shutdown could be for either partial refueling or renovation.
North Korea mothballed the 5-megawatt reactor at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, but began renovating it after its last nuclear test in 2013.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna said satellite photos showing steam discharges and cooling water outflows suggested the reactor was operational.
But the ISIS report said that in the latest images "both these signatures are missing," suggesting the reactor had been "partially or completely shut down."
When operational, the reactor is capable of giving North Korea, which has carried out 3 nuclear tests, 6 kilos (13 pounds) of plutonium a year – enough for one nuclear bomb, experts say.
ISIS said the reason for the apparent shutdown was unclear.
"It is possible that North Korea is carrying out a partial refueling of the reactor's core ... (or) has shut down the reactor for maintenance or renovation," it said.
IAEA inspectors have not had access to North Korea since being kicked out in 2009. – Rappler.com