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North Korea: Photos show expansion at uranium site

·1-min read
North Korea’s Yongbyon complex can produce both plutonium and uranium  (AP)
North Korea’s Yongbyon complex can produce both plutonium and uranium (AP)

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 (AP/The Independent)
Construction site highlighted, with current uranium enrichment building below (AP/The Independent)

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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