North Korea accelerates nuclear fuel processing, satellite images suggest

Fernando Stephens
July 16, 2017

The analysis will raise fears that Kim intends to manufacture more nuclear weapons, days after North Korean officials described a U.S. training exercise near their border as a "dangerous military gambit of warmongers who are trying to ignite the fuse of a nuclear war on the peninsula".

The images of the radiochemical laboratory showed there had been at least two reprocessing cycles not previously known aimed at producing "an undetermined amount of plutonium that can further increase North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile", something that would worry U.S. officials who see Pyongyang as one of the world's top security threats.

North Korea has vowed to continue developing its nuclear capabilities and carry out frequent missile launches.

38 North, a US website specializing in North Korea analysis, said in a report that the communist country appears to have increased its plutonium production at the main nuclear complex in Yongbyon from September through June.

Estimates vary on how many nuclear bombs Pyongyang actually has-anywhere from 6 to 30, depending on whom you ask, and possibly more given the latest revelations.

The satellite data, according to 38 North, also indicated previously unknown processing cycles for the production of "an undetermined amount of plutonium" that could "further increase North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile" at Pyongyang's Experimental Light Water Reactor, dw.com reported.

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"Based on imagery alone, it is not possible to conclude whether the plant is producing low or highly enriched uranium", the report added.

The report also noted increased thermal activity at the uranium enrichment facility but said it's unclear if that was due to centrifuge operations to increase inventory or maintenance.

Pyongang deactivated the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 as part of an aid-for-disarmament agreement, but began renovating the plant after the North's third nuclear test in 2013.

38 North said the facility to produce tritium - an isotope that is essential for boosted yield nuclear weapons and hydrogen bombs - does not appear to be operational.

In response to ongoing indications of continued nuclear weapons development by Pyongyang, the administration of US President Donald Trump has sought new sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with the DPRK, according to anonymous sources.

North Korea, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself, is subject to multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its weapons programmes.

Other reports by BadHub

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