The United States has voiced serious concern over North Korea showing signs of starting the operation of a new light-water nuclear reactor in a possible attempt to produce nuclear weapons fuel.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Thursday that the agency has detected more signs of the North commissioning the light-water reactor (LWR) at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex, such as warm water being discharged from it.

The North's "commissioning of a new light-water nuclear power plant raises serious concerns, including safety," the US Mission to the United Nations in Vienna said in a statement.

North Korea's unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs continue to pose a grave threat to international peace and security, it added.

Without the IAEA's monitoring and assistance, significant risks extend to North Korea, the region, and the global nuclear industry, the mission said.

The IAEA chief said the discharge of warm water from the light-water reactor is "indicative the reactor has reached criticality," adding that the "LWR, like any nuclear reactor, can produce plutonium in its irradiated fuel, which can be separated during reprocessing."

"So this is a cause for concern," he said.

Grossi also said the further development of the North's nuclear program, including the construction and operation of the LWR, is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and urged Pyongyang to fully comply with its obligations under the resolutions. (QNA)
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