North Korea is suspected of expanding key nuclear facilities

The process of expanding infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex is ongoing, with many works already completed.

“The building next to the centrifuge enrichment facility has had its roof covered, which means the exterior is complete. We discovered that construction near the light water reactor from April 2021 was also completed. construction, while two other buildings nearby have commenced work,” said International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi at a meeting with the IAEA Board of Governors today, referring to the open operation. North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility expansion.

The Yongbyon plant is considered the “jewel” of North Korea’s nuclear program. Built in 1979, the facility produces plutonium and other materials needed for Pyongyang to conduct its first nuclear test in 2006.

Operation at the second reactor project in Yongbyon, North Korea, in April. Photo: Maxar.

Operation at the second reactor site in Yongbyon, North Korea, in April. Photo: Max.

Commercial satellite images released by the US company Maxar in mid-May show construction activity at the second reactor at Yongbyon, which has been discontinued for many years. This reactor has a capacity of 50 MW, 10 times more than North Korea’s first reactor. Pyongyang suspended a project to build a second reactor in 1994 as part of an agreement with Washington.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that US intelligence is well aware of and closely monitors all activities at Yongbyon, adding that North Korea has made no secret of its efforts to restart the project to build a second reactor. .

Experts say it is difficult to determine the time of completion, but emphasize that it will help North Korea increase the production of radioactive plutonium material used in nuclear weapons by 10 times when it comes into operation.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have escalated over the past several weeks. Pyongyang has ramped up activity at key nuclear and missile test sites and test-fired multiple missiles since the beginning of the year. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says he no longer feels bound by a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, as denuclearization talks with the United States stall.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has vowed to take a harder line on North Korea and agreed with US President Joe Biden at a summit in Seoul last month on plans to upgrade joint exercises and deterrence against Pyongyang.

Vu Anh (Theo Reuters)

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