North Korea nuke plant moving forward

Aug. 22, 2012 at 8:25 AM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A light-water reactor under construction by North Korea could allow the country to greatly increase its stockpile of nuclear fuel, analysts say.

Assessments were released this month, with the latest on Tuesday, The New York Times reported.

Satellite photos taken Aug. 6 show a 69-foot dome has been placed over the reactor in Yongbyon. That's a "significant development," Allison Puccioni, a satellite image analyst at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, said Tuesday.

It could still be several years before the reactor is operational, she added.

The reactor has been the focus of attention by the West, particularly the United States, for several years.

A five-megawatt facility used by North Korea to reprocess spent fuel was partially dismantled in 2008 before a disarmament deal with the U.S. fell apart. A centrifuge plant that experts said could be used to make nuclear fuel for bombs was unveiled in 2010.

In April, North Korea launched a long-range rocket, blowing up a deal reached with the United States in February in which the North agreed to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for U.S. food aid.

North Korea now has enough plutonium to build about a half dozen nuclear weapons, a number of estimates indicate.

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