A United States institute says steam has been rising from the North Korean Yongbyon nuclear facility, indicating the reactor has been restarted.
The report said the color and volume of the steam suggests the reactor was in or nearing operation.
Back in April, North Korea announced it would restart facilities at Yongbyon, in the midst of high regional tensions.
Plutonium can be produced at Yongbyon, which the hardline communist state could use to make nuclear weapons.
The report was written by the US-Korean Institute at John Hopkins University and published on the 38 North website. The institute monitors North Korea with the use of satellite imagery.
Jeffrey Lewis, who authored the report, told the BBC, “The reactor looks like it either is or will within a matter of days be fully operational, and as soon as that happens, it will start producing plutonium.”
“They really are putting themselves in a position to increase the amount of material they have for nuclear weapons, which I think gives them a little bit of leverage in negotiations, and adds a sense of urgency on our part,” Lewis said.
In July 2007 the Yongbyon reactor was closed as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal. Image/Reuters