U.S. institute: N. Korea appears to be restarting reactor

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WASHINGTON — A U.S. research institute says North Korea appears to be restarting a plutonium reactor, in a move that could raise renewed international alarm over its nuclear weapons program.

The five-megawatt reactor at Nyongbyon was shuttered in 2007 under a disarmament agreement. Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng) announced in April plans to restart it.

Without access to the secretive facility, it is difficult to say with certainty that the reactor is operating again.

But the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says an Aug. 31 commercial satellite image shows white steam rising from a building that houses steam turbines and electric generators that are driven by heat from the reactor.

The analysis was provided to The Associated Press ahead of its publication Wednesday.