August 09, 2013 09:19
North Korea has expanded a uranium enrichment facility at the Yongbyon nuclear site to twice its previous size since it announced in March that it was restarting activities there, the Institute for Science and International Security in the U.S. claimed Wednesday.
ISIS's analyzed satellite images from Digital Globe and Google Earth and concluded that the uranium-enrichment facility has grown by 1,800 sq.m.
"North Korea stated in 2010 that the plant contained about 2,000 centrifuges with an enrichment output of 8,000 separative work units (swu) per year," the institute said. "Thus, North Korea could in theory install 2,000 more centrifuges for a total of 4,000 centrifuges with a total declared capacity of 16,000 swu per year in this expanded building."
But it admitted estimating North Korea’s uranium-enrichment capacity, “in particular estimating the amount of weapon-grade uranium it has produced, is fraught with uncertainty. A key uncertainty is whether the Yongbyon centrifuge plant is North Korea's only such plant."
A doubling of capacity would mean that annual weapon-grade uranium production could increase to an estimated 16 to 68 kg. "Each weapon would require approximately 20 kg of weapon-grade uranium," the institute said.
A government official in Seoul said, "It's true that the North's uranium enrichment facility has been expanded, but we don't know whether that means that the North's nuclear weapons production capacity has been doubled because it's impossible to see the inside the building."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com