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IAEA Chief "Seriously Concerned" Over North Korean Nuke Advancements

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in a Monday statement said he was worried about the progress North Korea has made in activities that could expand its access to nuclear weapon-usable material.

"I remain seriously concerned about the nuclear program of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the agency's 35-nation Board of Governors. "Statements by the D.P.R.K. about uranium enrichment activities and the construction of a light-water reactor are deeply troubling."
 
Pyongyang claims a uranium enrichment plant it revealed to the world in November 2010 will be used to produce fuel for peaceful atomic energy generation. The North has said the experimental reactor being built at the Yongbyon nuclear complex will be powered by atomic fuel produced by the nearby enrichment plant. Foreign issue observers suspect the reactor is actually a cover to justify the stockpiling of refined uranium. Alternatively, the reactor could be utilized to produce plutonium suitable for use in warheads.
 
Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog have not been permitted in North Korea since April 2009.
 
"It appears that, since my previous report, significant progress has been made in the construction of a light-water reactor, one of two undeclared facilities at Yongbyon. However, without access to the site, the agency is unable to assess either the design features of the reactor, or the likely date for its completion," Amano stated. "With regard to an undeclared centrifuge enrichment facility, the agency has no new information and remains unable to determine the facility's configuration or operational status."
 
The IAEA chief said his agency continued to be prepared to resume monitoring activities in North Korea.

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