01/29/2015, 00.00
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North Korea, "suspicious activities" near Yongbyon atomic reactor

Satellite images reveal source of great heat in the vicinity of reactor. After five month stop, reactivation raises fears it may provide plutonium for the atomic bomb. "Six-Party Talks" on the disarmament of the peninsula stalled since 2008.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The North Korean regime is working to reactivate its main nuclear reactor, after a five month shutdown had led to hopes in a rethink of the regime's nuclear ambitions. According to "38 North" a website run by the Institute of Korean Studies of the Johns Hopkins School, satellite images taken over the Yongbyon nuclear complex have been relaying signs of activity since December 24, 2014.

Analysts explain that ""One possibility is that the North is in the early stages of an effort to restart the reactor. However, since the facility has been recently observed over a period of only a few weeks, it remains too soon to reach a definitive conclusion on this." The reactor had been closed at the end of August 2014: Pyongyang has never opened a real dialogue on nuclear disarmament, but over the last year has not shown any intentions to carrying out further military tests.

Satellite images show snow melting off the roof of the reactor and the steam from a pressure relief valve. The intensity of the mass of hot air, designed with precision instruments, indicates that a very strong source of heat is active in the area. The small Yongbyon reactor - five megawatts - is able to produce spent fuel rods which, if processed in an appropriate manner, can be used to prepare one atomic bomb per year.

Despite the opposition of the international community, the North has conducted underground nuclear tests three times (in 2006, 2009 and 2013) and has also built a plant for uranium  enrichment, which gives the communist regime a second source - in addition to program based on plutonium - to build a nuclear arsenal.

The "six-party talks on nuclear disarmament" - involving the two Koreas, Russia, the US, China and Japan-have been stalled since late 2008. North Korea has called for the resumption of negotiations "without preconditions", but the United States wants "concrete steps" that demonstrate a commitment to denuclearization before returning to the table.



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See also
Tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang rise as Cold War fears cast a shadow over Korea
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Pyongyang reactivates its nuclear reactor
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