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NK running new uranium enriching facility: scientist

Posted November. 22, 2010 11:23,   


North Korea is known to have showed an American nuclear scientist a vast facility it secretly built with rapid speed to enrich uranium.

In an interview with New York Times posted Saturday, Stanford University professor Siegfried S. Hecker said he was stunned by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.”

The North claimed 2,000 centrifuges have been running after installation, he said.

Hecker said he was forbidden from taking photos and could not verify Pyongyang’s claims that the plant was producing low-enriched uranium. He privately informed the White House of his findings a few days ago after his return, and Washington briefed its allies and Congress about his revelations.

The New York Times said Pyongyang might have decided to show off the new facility for use as a bargaining chip with the U.S. and build the credentials of its heir apparent Kim Jong Un. Regardless of what the North’s intentions are, the daily said, it creates a new challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama at a moment when his program for gradual nuclear disarmament appears in trouble at home and abroad.

The plant did not exist in April last year, when the last American and international inspectors visited Pyongyang, so the North must have built this facility after their visit. The report speculated that Pyongyang must have had foreign help since it built the plant so quickly and might have violated strict U.N. sanctions.

The speed with which it was built strongly suggests that the North had foreign help and evaded strict new U.N. Security Council sanctions to punish its rejection of international controls, the daily added.

Speaking to foreign journalists in Beijing immediately after his visit to Pyongyang, Hecker said the North is building an experimental light-water nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon complex. The reactor can generate 25-30 megawatts and will require a few years for construction to be completed, he added.

The White House is eager to use the bombshell announcement to show that North Korea violated U.N. mandates. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Friday that Pyongyang’s nuclear program does not pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy.