News / Asia

Satellite Images Show N. Korea's Nuclear Reactor Progress

VOA News
A U.S. research institute says satellite images show North Korea could complete construction on a light-water nuclear reactor by the end of next year. But analysts say there is no consensus on what it means for the future of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Technology says imagery taken in May and June shows new construction material has been placed on and near the reactor building at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. It said major external work on the reactor appears to be complete, though the building itself still lacks a dome.

Pyongyang says the new light-water reactor will generate electricity for civilian purposes.  However, it could also be used to make the weapons-grade plutonium that North Korea is believed to have used for two nuclear tests.

Satellite imagery from May 3, 2012 showing construction materials and support equipment waiting to be placed on the reactor building.

RAND security analyst Bruce Bennett says there is reason to doubt that North Korea intends to use the facility for electricity, since it failed to connect power lines to its original nuclear reactor after having made similar promises.

"It was very clearly for producing nuclear materials as opposed to producing power," says Bennett. "What would be really interesting as this facility gets closer to completion, is to see whether they actually do try to hook it up to the power grid."

Ben Habib, a Korean analyst at Australia's Latrobe University, says a bigger concern may be the nearby uranium enrichment plant, which scientists say could give Pyongyang a second way to make nuclear weapons.

"It's probably unlikely that this light-water reactor is going to be used to make plutonium for nuclear weapons," says Habib. "What is a significant development is what is happening next door at the uranium enrichment facility. It's easier and cheaper to get fissile material through uranium enrichment because it doesn't have to be burned through a reactor like plutonium does."

Habib says ultimately, it may be difficult to know the status of North Korea's nuclear weapons capability unless it conducts a third nuclear test - a step many observers say could come soon.

North Korea is already under numerous international sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs. It reached a deal with the United States in February to suspend those programs in exchange for badly needed food aid. But Washington scrapped the deal after Pyongyang ignored international warnings and launched a rocket in April.


A wide area view of the Yongbyon LWR complex showing ongoing construction work on two buildings north of the reactor building.


The June 5, 2012 imagery shows the completed external construction of the buildings that have now been combined under a single roof.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid