North Korea Seen Placing Roof on New Reactor

North Korea’s light-water reactor facility at Yongbyon, shown in February. A new picture taken from space this month shows that the North has added roofing to the structure, according to an analyst (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe).
North Korea’s light-water reactor facility at Yongbyon, shown in February. A new picture taken from space this month shows that the North has added roofing to the structure, according to an analyst (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe).

A recent satellite picture indicates North Korea has placed a roof on its new light-water reactor -- a critical accomplishment in the project begun in 2010, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

Pyongyang maintains the reactor under construction at the Yongbyon nuclear complex will be used to generate nuclear energy for nonmilitary purposes. However, issue analysts worry it might be used to generate plutonium for nuclear warheads.

North Korea's nuclear-weapon program has to date relied on plutonium devices. The nation is believed to hold enough material for at least six weapons.

"The emplacement of the dome is a significant development, although it may take several more years for the facility to be completed and brought into full operation," IHS Jane's Defense Weekly analyst Allison Puccioni said in assessing the images taken on Aug. 6 by the GeoEye-1 satellite.

The reactor would presumably be powered by uranium enriched at another Yongbyon facility. Uranium can also be enriched to levels suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

August 21, 2012
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A recent satellite picture indicates North Korea has placed a roof on its new light-water reactor -- a critical accomplishment in the project begun in 2010, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.