PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Activity has been detected at North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center for the first time in five months, suggesting a possible attempt to restart the plutonium production reactor.
According to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Affairs, satellite imagery taken between Dec. 24 and Jan. 11 indicated increased activity. Over the course of that period, snow-melted areas on roofs at the complex enlarged and steam was visible near the turbine building.
"Exactly what is happening at the 5 MWe Reactor remains unclear," acknowledged 38 North analyst Nick Hansen.
"One possibility is that the North Koreans are in the early stages of an effort to restart the reactor after an almost five-month hiatus in operations."
While it may be too early to know for sure, Hansen advised that "continuing to monitor the reactor site should provide more information in the future."
North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 despite calls by the U.S. to show its commitment to denuclearize.