Daily News

3. US group suspects N.Korea nuclear activity

A US university team monitoring North Korea says satellite images suggest the country may be preparing to resume operating a plutonium production reactor.

The Johns Hopkins University group posted an analysis of commercial satellite imagery taken from last October through January on its website "38 North" on Wednesday.

The images show a facility in Nyongbyon believed to be at the center of North Korea's nuclear program.

The group says the images indicate a continued presence of vehicles at and around the 5-megawatt experimental reactor, suggesting ongoing maintenance, refueling or preparations for renewed operation.

The group added that no snow was observed on the roofs of the reactor or its support facilities from late December, but that there was snow on the roofs of other buildings in the area. It says this indicates that activity was taking place in the reactor and its support buildings, and that they were at least minimally heated.

The group concluded that taken as a whole, these activities suggest ongoing preparations to restart the reactor.

Last August, South Korea's Defense Ministry said North Korea was believed to have resumed operations at a fuel reprocessing facility at the Nyongbyon complex.

The ministry said in its defense white paper released early this month that North Korea's stockpile of plutonium has exceeded 50 kilograms, up 10 from the ministry's estimate 2 years ago.