North Korean building work at nuclear site is advancing, IAEA says

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International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi has said that North Korea is advancing on building work that will expand key facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear site.

Mr Grossi told a quarterly meeting of the agency’s 35-nation board of governors on Monday that “a roof has been installed on the annex to the reported Centrifuge Enrichment Facility, so the annex is now externally complete”, according to Reuters.

He noted in a statement to the board that “near the light water reactor (LWR), we have observed that the new building that had been under construction since April 2021 has been completed, and construction has started on two adjacent buildings.”

He added: “At the Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri we have observed indications that one of the adits [horizontal passages] has been reopened, possibly in preparation for a nuclear test. The conduct of a nuclear test would contravene UN Security Council resolutions and would be a cause for serious concern.”

Mr Grossi told the board that “at the Yongbyon site, activities are continuing. There are ongoing indications consistent with the operation of the 5MW(e) reactor. There are indications of activity at the Radiochemical Laboratory that are consistent with those observed during possible waste treatment or maintenance activities in the past.”

He also pointed out that the 50MW(e) reactor, the construction of which had stopped in 1994, the “dismantling of buildings and the removal of some material, likely for re-use in other construction projects” was observed.

“There are ongoing indications of activities at the Kangson complex and the Pyongsan Mine and Concentration Plant,” the IAEA chief said.

He reiterated that the continuation of North Korea’s nuclear programme “is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable”.

“I call upon the DPRK to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, to cooperate promptly with the Agency in the full and effective implementation of its NPT Safeguards Agreement and to resolve all outstanding issues, especially those that have arisen during the absence of Agency inspectors from the country,” he added.

Mr Grossi’s statement comes in the wake of IAEA’s report last month that said North Korea had restarted a plutonium-producing reactor at its primary Yongbyon nuclear complex to the highest levels in three years.

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