The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Breaking News

September 11, 2013

Institute: NKorea nuke reactor likely restarting

WASHINGTON —

A recent satellite image appears to show North Korea is restarting a plutonium reactor, in a move that could raise renewed international alarm over its nuclear weapons program, a U.S. research institute said Wednesday.

The 5 megawatt reactor at the Nyongbyon nuclear facility was shuttered in 2007 under the terms of a disarmament agreement. Pyongyang announced plans in April to restart it amid a litany of threats toward the U.S. and South Korea after it faced tougher international censure over its latest nuclear and rocket tests.

North Korea has since toned down its rhetoric and stepped up diplomacy with rival South Korea, but Wednesday's finding by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is sign that the regime of Kim Jong Un is pressing ahead with its nuclear program.

Without access to the secretive facility, it is difficult to say with certainty that the reactor has restarted, but the institute says an Aug. 31 commercial satellite image shows white steam rising from a building next to the reactor. The building houses steam turbines and electric generators that are driven by heat generated by the reactor. The color and volume of the steam is consistent with the electrical generating system being readied to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation, the institute says.

The analysis was written by Jeffrey Lewis and Nick Hansen, and provided to The Associated Press ahead of publication on the institute's website, 38 North.

When North Korea announced its plans in April, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that restarting the plutonium reactor would be "extremely alarming" but added: "There's a long way to go between a stated intention and actually being able to pull it off."

There was no immediate comment from the department Wednesday on the new report. South Korea's National Intelligence Service said it could not confirm the report because it involves confidential intelligence.

Commercial satellite images taken in recent months had indicated preparations for restarting the reactor were progressing rapidly. In June, the institute predicted the reactor could be up and running by the end of August, depending on the availability of fresh fuel rods to power it.

The reactor can be used both to generate electricity and produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and once it is operating, can produce about 6 kilograms of plutonium a year — enough for one or two bombs. Experts estimate North Korea already has enough plutonium for between four to eight crude weapons.

"The reactor restart fits a pattern of continued expansion of North Korea's WMD programs short of conducting outright nuclear and missile tests," said Joel Wit, a former State Department official and editor of 38 North. WMD stands for weapons of mass destruction.

"An operating reactor will enable Pyongyang to renew the production of plutonium, albeit on a small scale, that will enable it to slowly expand its stockpile of nuclear bombs," he said.

The development could intensify pressure on Washington to restart international aid-for-disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang, stalled since 2009, although the differences between them are stark.

The U.S. is demanding North Korea first recommit to past agreements on denuclearization, while Pyongyang insists that it be recognized in disarmament negotiations as a nuclear power, which the U.S. refuses to do.

North Korea has dialed down its bellicose rhetoric in recent months and on Wednesday agreed with South Korea to restart operations at a jointly run factory park that Pyongyang shut down in April.

But despite the easing tensions, analysis of recent commercial satellite photos also shows Pyongyang may also be doubling the size of its uranium enrichment plant — a potential, second source of fissile material for nuclear weapons — and expanding its main rocket launch site, located on its west coast near China.

North Korea has conducted three underground, nuclear test explosions since 2006. The latest, in February 2013, prompted international condemnation and a tightening of sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. The sanctions are intended to hinder the North's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The North's weapons capabilities are a subject of conjecture, but experts doubt it has yet mastered how to miniaturize a nuclear device that fit on a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States, although it is possible it may have for shorter-range missiles.

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Indiana popcorn fest loses Redenbacher sponsorship

    Orville Redenbacher popcorn is no longer the title sponsor of an annual festival in the northwestern Indiana city where Redenbacher developed the hybrid popping corn that made him famous.

    July 31, 2014

  • Elwood man charged with rape

    July 31, 2014

  • Investigators make it to Ukraine jet crash site

    As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, an international team of investigators on Thursday reached the crash site of the Malaysia Airline Flight 17 and got a first look at where it was brought down by a missile two weeks ago.

    July 31, 2014

  • NWS - HB0706 - scooter - 04 Police say new mo-ped law hard to enforce KOKOMO — With more and more mo-peds hitting the streets, police are having a hard time enforcing new restrictions encompassed in the new scooter law.Mo-ped drivers can still cruise the streets and roads on their two-wheel machines, but the new state

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Venue change granted for blast suspect A judge granted a change of venue Wednesday for the trial of one defendant in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion after prosecutors dropped their objection.

    July 31, 2014

  • Boyfriend of missing Shelbyville woman arrested Authorities searching for a missing central Indiana woman have discovered what they believe to be human remains and have arrested the woman's boyfriend.

    July 30, 2014

  • Pence pushes Medicaid alternative with HHS chief Gov. Mike Pence has told U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that he wants to maintain Indiana's "freedom and flexibility" under any expansion of Medicaid.

    July 30, 2014

  • Indianapolis mayor backs tax to hire more officers

    Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is seeking a tax increase to pay for hiring more police officers as part of a wide-ranging response to the city's recent surge in deadly violence.

    July 30, 2014

  • Colts Camp update: Will injured players return?

    Cornerback Vontae Davis and safety LaRon Landry have yet to participate in a training camp practice, and running back Trent Richardson has missed four straight after running through drills on opening day. Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano doesn't want to rush any of those players back onto the field. But he made it clear Wednesday morning at Anderson University that he hopes to see them back soon.

    July 30, 2014

  • Ticket me Elmo? NYC mulls law for impersonators

     New York City officials are turning up the heat on Elmo, Cookie Monster and Statue of Liberty impersonators — Times Square costumed characters who often demand money for posing in photos with tourists.

    July 30, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think school is starting too early?

Yes, it shouldn't start until after Labor Day.
Yes, it shouldn't start for another week or so.
No, it's about right.
Not sure.
     View Results