N. Korea may begin extracting plutonium at plant: U.S. institute

In this image provided by 38 North, shows a rail flatcar at radiochemical laboratory where North Korea separates weapons-grade plutonium from waste from a nuclear reactor. U.S. researchers see further signs from satellite imagery that North Korea is looking to produce more plutonium for nuclear weapons. The activity seen at the Nyongbyon nuclear complex comes amid a flurry of weapons-related tests by North Korea. (38 North via AP)

A U.S. institute monitoring North Korea said Friday the country appears to be beginning or planning to extract plutonium, the core material of a nuclear bomb, at a nuclear plant in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

Satellite imagery dated April 11 shows a vehicle loaded with tanks or casks in the premises of a nuclear reprocessing facility, according to the 38 North website operated by Johns Hopkins University’s U.S.-Korea Institute in Washington.

“Such tanks or casks could be used to supply chemicals used in a reprocessing campaign intended to produce additional plutonium, haul out waste products or a number of other related activities,” the institute said.

Similar vehicles were observed in the early 2000s, it said, when North Korea extracted plutonium apparently as part of its nuclear programs.

On April 4 the institute said plumes were detected from the reprocessing facility fueling the speculation that Pyongyang has engaged in additional production of plutonium.

U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper said in February that North Korea could extract plutonium within weeks to months at a facility in Yongbyon.



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