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North Korea expanding work at Yongbyon nuclear facility

December 06, 2013, 18:07 UTC+3 SEOUL
Recent commercial satellite imagery shows that North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear center appears to be increasingly active, according to U.S. Institute for Science and International Security
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Yongbyon complex nuclear facility

Yongbyon complex nuclear facility

© EPA/DIGITALGLOBE/HANDOUT

SEOUL, December 06. /ITAR-TASS/. North Korea is expanding its activities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Centre, the U.S. Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reported on Friday, referring to satellite imagery data.

“Recent commercial satellite imagery shows that North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear center appears to be increasingly active. There are several signs of new and continued activity and progress in the construction of facilities,” the ISIS said in a report. It cited commercial satellite photos taken Monday that show steam is present at the fuel fabrication complex, according to Yonhap news agency. “The steam is emerging from a building that years ago was involved in converting yellowcake to natural uranium dioxide,” the Washington-based institute said. “One implication of the steam is that the building is operational as part of an effort to make fuel for the 5 MWe reactor.”

ISIS raised the possibility that the North's uranium enrichment program is also making progress. “Since earlier this year, North Korea has been expanding its gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Yongbyon,” it said. “This plant is believed to be producing low enriched uranium fuel for the light water reactor (LWR) or for further enrichment to weapon-grade at Yongbyon or elsewhere.”

In November, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it did not exclude the possibility that North Korea could restore and launch the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that “the agency continues to monitor the developments mainly through satellite imagery,” having no access to the facility.

According to Amano, “North Korea’s nuclear program remains a matter of serious concern.” “I urge the authorities of the republic to fully meet their obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and to cooperate promptly with the agency to comply with the safeguards agreement and resolve all outstanding issues,” he concluded.

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