Experts suspect that North Korea is boosting its bomb materials production at its nuclear facility. Recent satellite images of the Yongbyon nuclear complex shows that the uranium enrichment plant in the facility is being expanded. North Korea had recently tested its first missile in six months alarmingly amidst the nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States, which also supports the assessment.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey reported that the expansion of the plant probably indicates that North Korea is planning to increase its weapon-grade uranium production at the Yongbyon nuclear complex by as much as 25%.
The photos were taken by the satellite imagery company Maxar, which showed the adjoining area of the uranium enrichment plant being constructed, report says. The satellite images taken on September 1st showed that the trees on the ground for construction were cleared and the space was prepared for constructing. There were construction excavators on the site. On September 14th, another satellite image showed an erected wall that encloses the construction area and panels and obstructions removed from the side of the existing plant to provide access to the site.
The new site is approximately 1000 square meters, which is enough to place 1000 centrifuges, which can increase the uranium production capacity of the plant by 25%. Highly enriched uranium and plutonium can be used to build nuclear weapons and North Korea has all the facilities to produce both uranium and plutonium at the nuclear complex. Last month, satellite photos suggested that North Korea is operating facilities to produce weapon grade plutonium.
The Yongbyon complex is ‘the heart’ of North Korea’s nuclear program. Estimates says that North Korea is capable of producing nuclear weapons ranging from six to eighteen bombs every year. During the summit with then-President of the United States Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had offered to dismantle the nuclear complex if major sanction relief was given by the U.S. But the United States rejected North Korea’s proposal, commenting that the offer was a limited denuclearization step.