Electronics

Korea likely hikes plutonium production for nuclear weapons

Korea likely hikes plutonium production for nuclear weapons

38 North, a USA website specializing in North Korea analysis, said in a report that the communist country appears to have increased its plutonium production at the main nuclear complex in Yongbyon from September through June.

According to satellite imagery recorded between September 2106 and June 2017, North Korea has stepped up its production of weapons-grade plutonium at a faster rate than previously asserted by military experts.

The satellite data, according to 38 North, also indicated previously unknown processing cycles for the production of "an undetermined amount of plutonium" that could "further increase North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile" at Pyongyang's Experimental Light Water Reactor, dw.com reported.

North Korea has tested five nuclear bombs which have been manufactured using uranium and plutonium.

North Korea deactivated the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, but began renovating it after its third nuclear test in 2013.

A spate of missile tests has stoked concern that the communist state is advancing rapidly toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the USA mainland. Officials and experts say it could test a sixth at any time, despite US-led global efforts to curb its programme.

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It states that there have been two or more unreported reprocessing campaigns at the Yongbyon plant's radiochemical installation "to produce an undetermined amount of plutonium that can further increase North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile".

The monitors said images of the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon may also indicate an increase in the North's supply of enriched uranium, its other source of bomb-making fuel.

It said thermal activity at the uranium enrichment facility could be a result of centrifuge operations that "would increase the North's enriched uranium inventory", and give the regime more fuel for bombs.

The researchers also said analysis of thermal patterns from a probable isotope/tritium production facility at the site suggested that the plant was likely not producing tritium.

It said the increase could be due to short-term activity such as the heating of pipes to prevent freezing but "any activity at the ELWR is cause for concern and its operational status bears continued monitoring as it would be an indicator of North Korean ongoing intentions and capabilities". But analysts believe it has yet to master the technology to miniaturize them to fit on a missile.

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