Satellite photos revealed this week that North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment plant, a move that experts say indicates that the country aims to increase the production of bomb materials, according to The Associated Press.
Jeffrey Lewis and two other experts at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said in a report that the expansion of the uranium enrichment plant could mean a significant increase in uranium production, according to the newswire.
“The expansion of the enrichment plant probably indicates that North Korea plans to increase its production of weapons-grade uranium at the Yongbyon site by as much as 25%,” the experts said, according to AP.
The report added that satellite photos taken at the beginning of the month by imagery company Maxar showed forrest clearing to prepare the ground for construction. An image taken on Sept. 14 showed that a wall had been erected to enclose the area the AP reported.
Overall, the area measures about 10,760 square feet with enough space to store nearly 1,000 centrifuges. The images also showed work being done to remove panels from one side of the enrichment plant to allow access into the new enclosed area.
The expansion of North Korea's plant, which is located at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, follows the country's move to execute missile tests for the first time in six months. The tests and the materials expansion come as disarmament negotiations between the northern Asian country and the United States remained suspended.
Both highly enriched uranium and plutonium can be used to build nuclear weapons, according to the AP. North Korea's Yongbyon facilities can produce both.
Satellite photos taken last month reportedly showed that North Korea resumed the operation of facilities that produce plutonium.
In 2019, Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korean showcases shirtless soldiers lying on broken glass, smashing bricks on head North Korea's Kim rips US, promises 'invincible' military North Korea's Kim notes 'grim' economy while marking anniversary of ruling party MORE proposed dismantling the Yongbyon complex, which has been called “the heart” of North Korea's nuclear program, but former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE shot down the offer at the time, viewing it as a limited denuclearization step.