SEOUL, South Korea – A new satellite image shows North Korea has completed a key step in the construction of a light-water reactor at its main nuclear complex, though it may take several more years before it is fully operational, an analyst said Tuesday.
North Korea says the reactor being built since 2010 at its Yongbyon complex is for electricity generation. But some experts have questioned the North's intention since the reactor would give the country a reason to enrich uranium that could be used in nuclear bombs at higher levels.
North Korea revealed an industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility in 2010 and has vowed to bolster its nuclear capability, citing what it calls hostile U.S. policies toward the country.
The satellite images taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Aug. 6 show a dome has been hoisted on top of the reactor building, Allison Puccioni at IHS Jane's Defence Weekly said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
"The emplacement of the dome is a significant development, although it may take several more years for the facility to be completed and brought into full operation," Puccioni said. The dome had been lying on the ground beside the building for a year, she said.
A U.S.-based institute said in May that satellite images showed that North Korea had resumed construction of the reactor after months of inactivity. An image from a commercial satellite dated April 30 showed progress in construction of the containment building for the reactor, according to the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
International disarmament talks on North Korea's nuclear program were last held in December 2008. North Korea walked away from the negotiations in 2009 and later exploded its second nuclear device.