Recent observations have indicated that warm water has been discharged near the light water reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea, which is consistent with the purported commissioning of the LWR—a process that takes time for any new reactor—and suggests that the reactor has now reached criticality.
“The LWR, like any nuclear reactor, can produce plutonium in its irradiated fuel, which can be separated during reprocessing, so this is cause for concern,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “It remains the case that without access to the facility, the agency cannot confirm its operational status.”
Safety concern: Grossi went on to say that the agency does not have sufficient information to make an assessment about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea site, but that nuclear safety remains the paramount issue when starting a new reactor. Agency inspectors have had no access to North Korea since they were expelled in 2009.