SEOUL — South Korea’s main intelligence agency confirmed Tuesday that North Korea has restarted a Soviet-era nuclear reactor that the country had used to obtain plutonium fuel for bombs, according to South Korean legislators.
Nuclear experts in the United States, including at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, reported last month that satellite photographs indicated that North Korea had restarted the
5-megawatt reactor at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, the capital.
Nam Jae-joon, the director of the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, confirmed the restarting of the reactor during a closed parliamentary session Tuesday, Cho Won-jin, a governing-party lawmaker, and Jung Cheong-rae, an opposition legislator, told reporters during a joint news briefing. The two were designated by the political parties to inform reporters of part of the intelligence briefing.
Nam said North Korea had restarted the reactor as part of its plan to produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium to expand its nuclear arsenal.
A spokesman for the intelligence service refused to confirm or deny the legislators’ comments.
North Korea has yet to confirm the reported resumption of nuclear activity, although it had repeatedly warned that it was readying to restart it after a six-year hiatus.
If the reactor has been restarted, it would give North Korea the means to produce fuel for weapons. Until the North shut the reactor down in 2007 in a short-lived nuclear disarmament deal with the United States, its spent fuel had been the source of plutonium fuel for the nation, which conducted three underground nuclear tests between 2006 and February of this year.