Im­age anal­y­sis sug­gests North Korea boost­ing ura­nium stocks

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

Fresh satel­lite im­ages sug­gest North Korea is ex­pand­ing its ura­nium ex­trac­tion ca­pac­ity, pos­si­bly with a view to in­creas­ing its stock­pile of weapons-grade fis­sile ma­te­rial, ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing non-pro­lif­er­a­tion ex­pert.

The im­ages show Py­ongyang has be­gun to re­fur­bish a ma­jor mill that turns ura­nium ore into yel­low­cake — a first step to­wards en­riched ura­nium, said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms con­trol ex­pert at the Monterey In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

“This sug­gests that North Korea in­tends to mine and mill a sig­nif­i­cant amount of ura­nium that could serve as fuel for ex­pand­ing its nu­clear weapons stock­pile,” Lewis said in an anal­y­sis posted late Wed­nes­day on 38North, the web­site of the U.S.- Korea In­sti­tute at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity.

Lewis noted that the yel­low­cake might also be des­tined to pro­duce fuel for an ex­per­i­men­tal light-wa­ter re­ac­tor un­der con­struc­tion at the North’s main Yong­byon nu­clear com­plex.

The anal­y­sis comes days af­ter ex­perts at IHS Jane’s said sep­a­rate satel­lite im­ages sug­gested North Korea was op­er­at­ing a sec­ond hall of ura­nium en­rich­ment cen­trifuges at Yong­byon.

North Korea has staged three suc­cess­ful nu­clear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

A re­cent re­port by U.S. re­searchers warned that North Korea was poised to ex­pand its nu­clear pro­gram over the next five years and, in a worst-case sce­nario, could pos­sess 100 atomic weapons by 2020.

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