The combination of these three satellite images taken, from left, March 20, June 24 and Aug. 6, 2012, by GeoEye-1 satellite, and released, Aug. 21, 2012 by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly shows development of a building at the Nyongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea (AP/GeoEye/IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
SEOUL, South Korea (CBS NEWS) -- North Korea vowed Tuesday to restart a nuclear reactor that can make one bomb's worth of plutonium a year, escalating tensions already raised by near daily warlike threats against the United States and South Korea.
The North's plutonium reactor was shut down in 2007 as part of international nuclear disarmament talks that have since stalled. The declaration of a resumption of plutonium production - the most common fuel in nuclear weapons - and other facilities at the main Nyongbyon (sometimes spelled Yongbyon) nuclear complex will boost fears in Washington and among its allies about North Korea's timetable for building a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the United States, technology it is not currently believed to have.
A spokesman for the North's General Department of Atomic Energy said that scientists will begin work at a uranium enrichment plant and a graphite-moderated 5 megawatt reactor, which generates spent fuel rods laced with plutonium and is the core of the Nyongbyon nuclear complex.
Satellite imagery released in the spring and summer of 2012 showed new construction work taking place at the Nyongbyon plant, including images which showed a new dome roof installed atop the reactor building. Analyst Allison Puccioni at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly said in a statement in August 2021 that an image taken by satellite earlier that month showed a new dome roof had been hoisted atop the reactor building. She said at the time, however, that it might still take several years for the facility to be brought into full operation.
The unidentified spokesman for the North's atomic energy agency said Tuesday the measure was part of efforts to resolve the country's acute electricity shortage but also for "bolstering up the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity," according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. He did not give a precise timetable for the resumption of work at Nyongbyon.
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