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Activity seen at N. Korean nuclear plant

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Activity seen at N. Korean nuclear plant
This photo released by U.S. researchers who visited North Korea, shows the empty inner building that contained elaborate structures for operation of the cooling tower at the Yongbyon Nuclear Center in North Korea on February 14, 2008. U.S. and North Korean negotiators met on Tuesday for hurriedly arranged talks as Washington tries to revive a sputtering process to eliminate North Korea's nuclear programs. (UPI Photo/ Siegfried C. Hecker) | License Photo

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- North Korea apparently has started construction work at the site where plutonium for its nuclear program was produced, satellite images indicate.

An image taken last week by a U.S. commercial satellite firm shows new construction or excavation activities in an area near a destroyed cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

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The work is the first sign of new activity at the site since 2008 when the cooling tower was torn down as part of an agreement made during the now moribund negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program.

The satellite image shows heavy construction or excavation equipment, along with two small new buildings, a report by the Institute for Science and International Security said. But what all this means remains unclear, said David Albright, the report's author.

Albright said the activity could mean North Korea is moving toward reopening Yongbyon to increase its plutonium stockpile, the Post said. Or, it could be "for show, to pull our chains," Joel S. Wit, a North Korea watcher and former State Department official, told the Post.

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North Korea knows its nuclear facilities are under near- constant surveillance by intelligence and commercial satellites.

"It is by no means clear what is happening," Jonathan Pollack, a North Korean security expert at the U.S. Naval War College, said, "but any new construction at Yongbyon cannot be a good thing."

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