State Dept On Yongbyon

In early February, the State Department responded to some Questions for The Record about the six party talks and North Korean denuclearization. You can “download”: their response, but I want to highlight the portion discussing the state of the Yongbyon facilities. (AKA, the place with the reactor that was disabled _without_ anyone bombing anything).

You may have heard that the facilities were at the end of their useful life span when the North Koreans shut them down this past summer. State, however, says that such is not the case:

U.S. experts currently overseeing disablement activities at Yongbyon have stated that in their view, if the site had not been shut down and sealed under monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), *the facility could have remained operational and would have continued to produce additional fissile material.* Indeed, the 5 MW(e) reactor was in operation and producing plutonium up until the date of its shutdown, and several areas of the fuel rod fabrication facility were also in operation until mid-July. Although *the reprocessing plant* was not in operation at that time, it *had operated as recently as 2005 when the DPRK unloaded and reprocessed its previous core load of spent fuel.*

If the core facilities had not been shut down in July 2007, *the DPRK could have produced enough additional plutonium for several more nuclear weapons. Department of Energy experts found no indications that the site was at the end of its operational life.*

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