White Steam Spotted at N. Korea Reactor
Satellite image suggests Pyongyang is probably restarting reactor
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2013 2:00 AM CDT
This April 30, 2012 file satellite image provided by GeoEye shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility; this is not the newly analyzed image.   (AP Photo/GeoEye, File)

(Newser) – A fresh satellite image shows white steam coming from a building in North Korea, and a US research group says that likely means the country is nearly ready to restart a reactor capable of producing plutonium—or may have already started it. "The white coloration and volume are consistent with steam being vented because the electrical generating system is about to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation," says the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins. The image (see it here) was taken of the Yongbyon nuclear complex on Aug. 31, reports Reuters.

North Korea in April vowed to restart the reactor as a nuclear deterrent; NPR notes that a State Department rep at the time said, "There's a long way to go between a stated intention and actually being able to pull it off." Reuters reports that some experts had anticipated it would take about six months to do just that, barring any unforeseen issues resulting from fact that Yongbyon was shut down in 2007; the US-Korea Institute had predicted the reactor would be restart-ready at the end of last month. The reactor can make one bomb's worth of plutonium a year.