By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, March 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to continue producing fissile materials for nuclear weapons at its main Yongbyon nuclear facility, a U.S. monitoring website said, citing recent satellite imagery of Yongbyon.
38 North also suggested that work may be underway to further expand the Yongbyon site.
"Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicates ongoing production of fissile material—both plutonium and enriched uranium," it said in a report published Thursday.
"These activities, as well as the gradual expansion and evident occupation of personnel housing over the past few years, all suggest that the complex is primed for expansion," it added, noting the North restarted its 5 MW(e) reactor at Yongbyon last summer.
The report pointed to melting snow on the top of various facilities at Yongbyon, including the building that houses the reactor and "several support buildings" for the uranium enrichment plant, as evidence of their continued and ongoing operation.
It said work to build an experimental light water reactor (ELWR) at Yongbyon also appeared to be continuing, again citing snow melt seen on the roof of the turbine building.
"At this stage, the activities observed in Yongbyon indicate ongoing fissile material production as well as the groundwork for further expansion," it said.
"If the ELWR becomes operational, as it appears to be nearing completion, North Korea's plutonium production capacity could increase substantially," it added.
The report, however, noted no sign of work to expand or modify the radiochemical laboratory at Yongbyon has been observed, which would suggest the North's increased production capacity for fissile materials.
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