More Activity Detected at N. Korean Nuclear-Materials Complex

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
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Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Dec. 6, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — North Korea’s nuc­le­ar-ma­ter­i­als com­plex is teem­ing with activ­ity, ac­cord­ing to Thursday im­age ana­lys­is by the In­sti­tute for Sci­ence and In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity, which ex­amined satel­lite pho­to­graphs taken as re­cently as Monday.

“Re­cent com­mer­cial satel­lite im­agery shows that North Korea’s Yongby­on nuc­le­ar cen­ter ap­pears to be in­creas­ingly act­ive,” reads the re­port by Dav­id Al­bright and Ser­ena Kelle­her-Ver­gantini. “There are sev­er­al signs of new and con­tin­ued activ­ity and pro­gress in the con­struc­tion of fa­cil­it­ies.”

Py­ongy­ang in April de­clared it would ded­ic­ate more fa­cil­it­ies at Yongby­on to pro­du­cing fis­sile ma­ter­i­al for its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram. As part of that ef­fort, the North has been as­sessed in re­cent months to have re­star­ted its five-mega­watt plutoni­um-pro­duc­tion re­act­or, which was dis­abled un­der a now-de­funct 2007 de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion agree­ment.

Dec. 2 com­mer­cial satel­lite im­ages show wa­ter be­ing dis­charged close to the re­act­or. The wa­ter was likely used to cool the car­bon di­ox­ide gas in the re­act­or’s core, ac­cord­ing to the IS­IS re­port. “It’s pres­ence sig­ni­fies test­ing or on­go­ing op­er­a­tion of the 5 MWe re­act­or,” the as­sess­ment reads.

Four new fa­cil­it­ies have been built and one build­ing was torn down at an area to the north of the com­plex’s fuel-fab­ric­a­tion cen­ter. Trees cut down in dif­fer­ent areas of Yongby­on sug­gest that more build­ing work is in the off­ing. There are also in­dic­a­tions of con­struc­tion close to the com­plex’s urani­um cent­ri­fuge plant.  A satel­lite photo taken in late Ju­ly in­dic­ated po­ten­tial build­ing work hap­pen­ing next to the fa­cil­ity. A Dec. 2 im­age shows that work on the area is near­ing com­ple­tion, though its pur­pose “can­not con­clus­ively be iden­ti­fied,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

U.S. Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden on Fri­day said that North Korea’s nuc­le­ar work would not bring eco­nom­ic re­wards, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

“The simple fact is this — North Korea can nev­er achieve se­cur­ity and prosper­ity so long as it pur­sues nuc­le­ar weapons, peri­od,” said the vice pres­id­ent dur­ing a vis­it to Seoul.

Biden said the United States is open to re­sum­ing frozen mul­tina­tion­al nuc­le­ar ne­go­ti­ations, but only after the Kim Jong Un re­gime “demon­strates its full com­mit­ment to a com­plete, veri­fi­able and ir­re­vers­ible de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion.”

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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