VIENNA, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has removed surveillance equipment and security seals from North Korea's nuclear reprocessing facility.
The IAEA move came at the request of Pyongyang, which says it will reintroduce nuclear materials to the Yongbyon reprocessor in what is seen as a serious setback for efforts by the United States and other nations to persuade the North to dismantle the facility, CNN reported Wednesday.
"There are no more seals and surveillance equipment in place at the reprocessing facility," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Wednesday at the agency's headquarters in Austria. She said that Pyongyang "also informed IAEA inspectors that they plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant in one week's time."
Analysts told The New York Times North Korea's decision means that within a week, it could start processing spent nuclear fuel rods to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Pyongyang is estimated to have 5,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, enough to produce between 13.2 and 33 pounds of plutonium, which could arm between up to three bombs.
U.S. envoy to the IAEA Gregory Schulte called North Korea's move "unsettling."