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SAIS researchers reveal North Korean plutonium production

By John Durovsik | September 19, 2013

A recent post on 38 North, the web-based journal affiliated with the U.S.-Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies (USKI at SAIS), revealed evidence that suggests that North Korea will soon resume plutonium production at its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Nick Hansen and Jeffrey Lewis, who are researchers at SAIS, run the 38 North blog and broke the news last week.

The web-based journal, dedicated to political, social and economic analysis of North Korea, released satellite imagery depicting the facility’s electrical power generating building emitting white steam.

According to 38 North, both the coloration and volume of the white steam allude to a resumption of operations at the once-defunct facility in the near future.

The activity at Yongbyon has the potential to further aggravate the already frayed relationship between the United States and North Korea, one continually exacerbated by the DPRK’s contentious nuclear program.

The Yongbyon nuclear facility, constructed in the 1980s, recently ceased operations in 2008 following the so-called six-party international talks between North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States.

Pyongyang revealed its intention to resume operations at the facility back in April of 2013.

Now, according to researchers at the USKI at SAIS, has the ability to produce six kilograms of plutonium a year, allowing North Korea to gradually increase its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is estimated to have the equivalent of about 12 to 27 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.

The six-party talks, which have been held off and on over the past decade, aim to rid the North of its nuclear stockpile and capability.

The USKI at SAIS’s role in disclosing crucial information regarding North Korea’s nuclear program underscores the Institute’s pivotal role in researching, analyzing and reporting on pertinent Korean news and developments, both North and South.

Established in 2006, the USKI at SAIS is an independent research institute dedicated to the research of Inter-Korean affairs and Korean-U.S. affairs.

The USKI at SAIS does not take partisan stands on highly political issues; rather, it works to encourage dialogue and increase both information and understanding of Korean and U.S. affairs.

The Institute is not only a source of innovative research, but is also dedicated to education. The USKI at SAIS has developed a master’s program dedicated to the study of Korean affairs and policies, which has since grown into one of the largest regional concentrations offered at SAIS.

As demonstrated by the Institute’s disclosure of North Korea’s potential nuclear ambitions, an announcement with global reach, the USKI at SAIS has developed into a source for crucial research and news regarding Korean affairs.

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