North Korea's Nuclear Reactor May Be Ready

Bad news for most of the world.

It looks like a nuclear reactor in North Korea is just about ready to jump into action again.

Based on satellite images, it seems as if North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. The reactor is capable of producing plutonium, which the country could use to make nuclear weapons.

According to Jeffrey Lewis, who helped author the report on the reactor put out by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, "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."

Lewis went on to say that the North Koreans seem to be working to gain the upper hand when it comes to leverage in international negotiations. "They really are putting themselves in a position to increase the amount of material they have for nuclear weapons," Lewis said.

If the reactor is in fact nearly operational, North Korea could begin building on its nuclear arsenal within a few years. Based on plutonium output from nuclear facilities before they were shuttered, it's believed that the country has somewhere between four and 10 nuclear weapons. The Yongbyong facility was closed in 2007 in a deal struck with the Bush administration.

A few short months ago, North Korea engaged in its third nuclear test, and followed up with threats of nuclear attacks if the international community attempted to impose additional sanctions on them.

Leaders around the world have been trying to put a definitive halt to North Korea's nuclear program for years. After the most recent nuclear test, North Korea has appeared ready to return to negotiations on the topic but some countries, including the United States, have declined to discuss the nuclear program until the country agrees to give up its nuclear arsenal.