North Korea to Restart Nuclear Reactor, Causing Worry in Washington

North Korea has vowed to restart all mothballed facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, adding to tensions already raised by near-daily warlike threats against the U.S. and South Korea.

The reactor was shut down in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled.

A spokesman for the department of atomic energy said the facilities to be restarted are a graphite-moderated five-megawatt reactor, which generates spent fuel rods laced with plutonium and is the core of the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

The reactor, when fully running, is capable of churning out one atomic bomb’s worth of plutonium – the most common fuel in nuclear weapons – a year.

The move will increase fears in Washington and among its allies about North Korea’s push for nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the U.S., technology it is not believed to have.

Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February, prompting U.N. sanctions that have infuriated its leaders. The country has since declared that making nuclear arms and a stronger economy are the nation’s top priorities.

North Korea added the five megawatt, graphite-moderated reactor to its nuclear complex in 1986 after seven years of construction. The country began building a 50-megawatt and a 200-megawatt reactor in 1984, but their construction was suspended under a 1994 nuclear deal with Washington.

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