- US, Seoul Map Out N. Korea Nuclear Deterrence Plan – Report
- N. Korea Will Not Be Accepted to ‘Nuclear Club’ - UN Chief
- South Korea 'Ready to Respond' to Pyongyang Nuclear Threat
- North Korea Vows to Restart Nuclear Reactor
MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – North Korea is “probably restarting” a nuclear reactor capable of making weapons-grade plutonium in a step that may provoke renewed tension in the region, a US institute claimed after analyzing new satellite imagery.
The satellite photos taken August 31 show steam rising from a reconstructed building near the reactor hall in Yongbyon, the reclusive Communist dictatorship’s main nuclear facility capable of yielding weapons-grade plutonium, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said Wednesday.
"The white coloration and volume are consistent with steam being vented because the electrical generating system is about to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation," the Washington-based institute said.
The heat from the nuclear reaction in the reactor’s core creates steam that then spins the turbines generating electricity, the institute said on its website.
It claimed the 5 megawatt gas-graphite reactor can produce up to 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of plutonium a year and said that Kim Jong Un’s regime already has 34-36 kilogram (75-80 pounds) of the radioactive metal – enough for about a dozen bombs.
North Korea said in April that it would revive the Yongbyon reactor “without delay” as a preventive measure. The move was triggered by tensions on the divided peninsula that followed Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February and its threat to launch nuclear attacks against South Korea and the US.
An international expert told RIA Novosti at a meeting of the World Nuclear Association in London that the reactor may have been started up, but would need up to four or five years to produce plutonium because of its low technology.
The satellite photographs “may, but don’t necessarily prove the resumption” of the reactor's operations, the expert said.
The possible restart of the reactor may undermine North Korea’s recent efforts to improve ties with Seoul. In mid-August, the Koreas agreed to resume the operation of their jointly-run industrial park at Kaesong.
Completed in the 1980s, the Yongbyon reactor was mothballed under the 1994 Agreed Framework between North Korea and the US, the institute said.
After the agreement collapsed in 2002, Pyongyang restarted the facility only to shut it down again as part of a Six Party Talks deal to denuclearize North Korea in exchange for aid, it said.
The talks involved the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea and have been stalled since 2009.
The two Koreas technically remain "at war" since no peace treaty was signed when the Korean War ended in 1953.
Add to blog
You may place this material on your blog by copying the link.
Image Galleries: Removing Protesters’ Barricades in Kiev
Infographics: First Russian Smartphone
Russia has become very adept in playing the diplomatic game, in which victory depends on choosing the right associate or partner. But there are a growing number of claimants to this role in the new horizontal and interdependent world. Aside Syria and Iran, being still important, the new venues for the application of practical diplomacy may well be Ukraine, the East China Sea and Afghanistan.