North Korea Just Restarted Its Plutonium Reactor

This will not end well.
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A North Korean Taepodong-class missile is displayed during a military parade past Kim Il-Sung square marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

A North Korean Taepodong-class missile is displayed during a military parade past Kim Il-Sung square marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

North Korea has restarted a plutonium rector that could be used to create materials for nuclear weapons in the coming months, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday as part of his annual assessment of the biggest threats facing the United States.

Clapper said that the government in Pyongyang had in 2013 announced its intention to expand the uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities that were shut down in 2007, the Associated Press reports.

"We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the plutonium production reactor," Clapper said, according to the BBC.

"We further assess that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor's spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months," he added.

The news comes amid increasing anxiety in the West about North Korea's nuclear capabilities. Last week, the North Korean government launched a satellite into space using a rocket identical to the ones capable used to launch a nuclear warhead, making the project a passive-aggressive display of military might. And everyone is already on their toes, given that North Korea reportedly tested a hydrogen bomb last month.

According to Clapper, Pyongyang is "committed" to developing a long-range missiles capable of striking the U.S., "although the system has not been flight-tested."