N.Korea 'Expands Uranium Enrichment Facility'

North Korea "could now be concentrating on installing equipment and even centrifuges inside the expanded building" of the Yongbyon uranium enrichment facility in North Pyongan Province, experts said Wednesday.

The speculation comes in a report by the Institute for Science and International Security, a nuclear security think tank in Washington.

"In August 2013… North Korea had been expanding its gas centrifuge plant at Yongbyon, therefore potentially doubling its enrichment capacity… This could signify that the expansion is outwardly finished and that North Korea could now be concentrating on installing equipment and even centrifuges inside the expanded building," it said.

The assessment is based on analysis of images from commercial satellite Digital Globe.

"The gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Yongbyon is believed to be producing low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for the light water reactor (LWR) or for further enrichment to weapon-grade uranium at Yongbyon or elsewhere," it added. "Imagery dated April 7, 2014 shows that water was being discharged, suggesting that the 5 MW reactor was operating on this date."

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a multiple-rocket launching drill at an army unit in these undated photos published by the Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a multiple-rocket launching drill at an army unit in these undated photos published by the Rodong Sinmun on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Nick Hansen of website 38 North at Johns Hopkins University, told Voice of America that North Korea could conduct multiple nuclear tests or a detonation using highly enriched uranium to coincide with U.S. President Back Obama's visit to Seoul on Friday and Saturday.

Hansen based his speculation on satellite imagery of two tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Hamgyong Province. Analysis shows that both tunnels have been completed so that it is possible to detonate two nuclear devices at the same time, he speculated.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 25, 2014 11:47 KST

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