Once completed, the North Korean reactor would be able to produce enough plutonium for a new bomb every year, according to the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
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North Korea has resumed work on an experimental light water reactor (EWLR) after several months of inactivity, which could expand its capacity for producing nuclear weapon material, according to a report from the North Korea analysis website 38 North.
That conclusion is based on commercial satellite imagery from North Korea's main nuclear site at Yongbyon that indicates construction of the reactor building may be almost done, according to 38 North, a project of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Images indicated that rapid progress on the EWLR halted in December – likely because of the onset of winter – and resumed in February or March.
"Pyongyang’s construction of an ELWR – which the North Koreans have indicated is the prototype for additional reactors – as well as a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon is an important indication of the North’s intention to move forward with the expansion of its nuclear weapons stockpile in the future," the report states.
The North Korean government insists that the reactor is for energy production, but it can also be used to build weapons, according to 38 North. Once operational, the EWLR could produce enough plutonium for a new bomb every year.