NewsWorldNew Satellite Images Reveal North Korea Restarted Construction of...

New Satellite Images Reveal North Korea Restarted Construction of Long-Inactive Nuclear Reactor

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When and why can a nuclear power plant explode? 1:06 (CNN) — North Korea appears in recent weeks to have resumed construction of a long-dormant nuclear reactor that, if completed, would dramatically increase its ability to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, according to new satellite images. obtained by CNN and a source familiar with recent US intelligence information on the matter.
The satellite images, which were captured by Maxar during the months of April and May this year, show that North Korea has restarted construction of the second reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex after years of inactivity, experts from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies who have analyzed the photos. The reactor is about 10 times larger than the existing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which has been in operation since the late 1980s. U.S. officials are also aware of and closely monitoring recent activity at Yongbyon, according to a source familiar with the situation. , which noted that North Korea is not trying to hide its efforts to restart construction of the reactor in question. This appears to be an outward demonstration of North Korea’s nuclear progress and ambitions, the source said, adding that the new construction at the Yongbyon reactor is in line with Pyongyang’s goal of proving that it is a nuclear weapons state. This undated photo released by the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 17, 2022 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he watches the test firing of a new type of tactical guided weapon in North Korea. Experts say it is difficult to estimate how quickly North Korea could complete construction of the reactor. But once it’s up and running, it could allow North Korea to increase its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons tenfold, according to Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at Middlebury Institute. Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment when asked if there is any specific information suggesting that North Korea has taken further steps to complete construction of the Yongbyon reactor. “However, we have been very clear about the threat posed by the nuclear and missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, Japan and the national territory of United States States, and our shared goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Meiners added. North Korea halted construction of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor in 1994 under its deal with the US. At the time, the reactor was still years away from completion, Lewis said. Only very limited construction activity was seen at the site in subsequent years, but Lewis told CNN that he and his fellow researchers believe recent satellite imagery provides “the first unequivocal indicator that North Korea is moving toward completing the reactor”. Specifically, images taken by Maxar show that North Korea is “connecting the 50 MW(e) reactor’s secondary cooling loop to a water pumping station in the river,” he said. “In the image dated April 20, construction crews can be seen, as well as what appear to be segments of pipeline. By May 7, North Korea had buried the pipeline,” Lewis added. “The cooling loop connection helps explain other activity observed at the 50MW(e) reactor in recent years,” Lewis told CNN, pointing to the observed demolition of a building last year that was believed to house a sludge pond. Cooling for spent fuel. “The connection of the secondary cooling loop suggests, in hindsight, that the demolition of the apparent spent fuel building was an early signal that North Korea intends to complete construction of the reactor,” he told CNN. The source familiar with the matter also said that a lot of preparatory activity is required before any country can start construction of a nuclear reactor. “The preparatory activities speak to the intention, planning and long-term goals,” the source added. CNN reported earlier this month that US military and intelligence agencies believe North Korea may be ready to resume underground nuclear tests in the short term. The assessment concludes that Kim Jong Un’s government is also making preparations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and could be ready to conduct a test by the end of May. Satellite images have shown signs of personnel and vehicle activity at the site, but officials do not know if the regime has planted nuclear material in one of the test site’s underground tunnels, which the United States has closely monitored. If North Korea conducts a test, it would be the country’s seventh underground nuclear test and the first in nearly five years. — CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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