Recent satellite images have pointed to “suspicious” activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site at Yongbyon, according to a US research institute.
The images suggest that reprocessing is under way at the facility to produce more plutonium for atomic bombs, Reuters quoted the think-tank as saying in report published Monday.
In the past five weeks, exhaust plumes had been detected on two or three occasions from the thermal plant at Yongbyon’s Radiochemical Laboratory, says the report on the 38 North website.
“Exhaust plumes have rarely been seen there and none have been observed on any examined imagery this past winter. The plumes suggest that… some significant activity is being undertaken, or will be in the near future,” the report said.
“Whether that activity … means reprocessing additional plutonium is underway or will be in the near future remains unclear,” it said.
In a Feb. 9 congressional testimony, US National Intelligence director James Clapper said North Korea could begin to recover plutonium from spent fuel at Yongbyon “within a matter of weeks to months.”
The prospect of North Korea acquiring more plutonium will be looked on with concern by members of the United Nations Security Council, including Pyongyang’s sole major ally, China.
The council agreed to tough new sanctions on North Korea after it conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a long-range rocket launch a month later.
At a nuclear security summit in Washington last week, US President Barack Obama, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests.
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