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North Korea building second centrifuge facility at Yongbyon site

An analyst said the development in Pyongyang’s nuclear infrastructure further entrenches North Korea's behavior and would make reversal harder.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea building second centrifuge facility at Yongbyon site
An upgrade at Yongbyon nuclear site could double North Korea’s capacity to make weapons-grade uranium, according to a defense analytics firm on Tuesday. Image from Google Maps

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- New analysis of satellite images are showing signs North Korea is building a second centrifuge facility that could be used to enrich uranium in Yongbyon.

The report from British defense analytics firm IHS Jane on Tuesday said the upgrade could double North Korea's capacity to make weapons-grade uranium, NBC news reported.

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Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium that can be used for nuclear power plants and atomic bombs. Pyongyang may have ten nuclear warheads, but the missile technology is under development.

The images used in the analysis were taken in January and February, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. Melted snow around the building indicated heat was accumulating from activities taking place inside the structure where a new centrifuge had been installed.

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The satellite images taken between January and February indicated an expansion of activities. In January, snow had melted around the main facility believed to be in use for uranium enrichment but by early February snow had begun to melt around a second building and adjacent structures.

IHS Jane analyst Karl Dewey told NBC News the new centrifuge facility "could potentially double North Korea's ability to produce weapons-grade uranium."

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Dewey said the development in Pyongyang's nuclear infrastructure "further entrenches North Korea's behavior" and would make "roll-back harder."

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In July a retired U.S. government satellite imagery analyst said North Korea is working on a transformer yard that would connect the electricity-producing reactor to the grid, and that North Korea had installed five cells at a Yongbyon building that may be used to store explosive components of a nuclear weapon.

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