The Institute for Science and International Security released a report on Wednesday finding that the area of the Yongbyon reactor complex responsible for enriching uranium is now twice as large as it was in the past.
According to the New York Times, the report by the Washington-based, nonproliferation-monitoring group triggers new worries that North Korea is expanding its capacity to produce weapons-grade fuel.
The analysis was based on a comparison of satellite images of the complex taken in March — before construction began on the expansion — and on a June image that shows the framework of the addition, which is roughly the same size as the initial centrifuge facility.
Additional proliferation experts agreed with the ISIS analysis that the uranium-enrichment portion of the site appears to have doubled in size, the Times reported.
The expanded facility could produce anywhere from 16 to 68 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium, enough to manufacture two nuclear weapons per year, the ISIS report states.
North Korea asserts that the centrifuge facility produces low-enriched uranium for an onsite experimental light water reactor at the complex. However, it is unclear how extensive the North’s enrichment capacity has become and whether the isolated nation has produced weapon-grade uranium — and, if so, how much, according to the analytical organization.
North Korea has faced sanctions from the United Nations aimed at preventing the North from acquiring specialty metals and centrifuge components from overseas. Pyongyang might have been able to develop ways of producing these materials domestically, according to the newspaper.
The news comes less than two weeks after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un told the Chinese vice president that he was open to restarting denuclearization discussions, and just a day after the North proposed another round of talks with South Korea with the intent of reopening a shuttered factory complex operated jointly by the two nations.
What We're Following See More »
"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."
Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.
The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.