North Korea: Photos show expansion at uranium site

New facility could boost production by 25 per cent , experts say

Liam James
Saturday 18 September 2021 15:14
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<p>North Korea’s Yongbyon complex can produce both plutonium and uranium </p>

North Korea’s Yongbyon complex can produce both plutonium and uranium

Satellite images show that North Korea is expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Experts said this was a sign the country intends to increase production of weapons-grade uranium by as much as 25 per cent.

A report from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said the photos taken by Maxar showed construction in a plot adjoining the Yongbyon plant.

An image taken on 1 September showed an excavator on a site where trees had been cleared and the ground had been prepared for construction, the report said.

A second image, taken on 14 September, showed foundation work, a new wall enclosing the area and an access point made by removing panels from the side of the existing enrichment building.

The new area is approximately 1,000 sq m (10,760 sq ft), enough space to house 1,000 additional centrifuges to the 4,000 currently at the site, Jeffrey Lewis, co-author of the report, said.

Yongbyon also has capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium and satellite photos from last month showed signs production had resumed.

Construction site highlighted, with current uranium enrichment building below

At a 2019 summit with Donald Trump, Kim Jong un offered to dismantle the complex in exchange for major sanctions relief, but the Americans rejected what they saw as a limited step in denuclearisation.

Some US and South Korean experts speculate North Korea is covertly running at least one additional uranium-enrichment plan.

North Korea this week fired both cruise and ballistic misslies into the sea, drawing condemnation from Japan.

Experts said the tests reflected a push to boost North Korea's weapons arsenal amid a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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