WASHINGTON – North Korea secretly and with unusual speed has built a large new facility to enrich uranium, says an American nuclear scientist who visited the site, according to the New York Times.
The scientist, Siegfried Hecker, told the newspaper in an interview that he was “stunned” by the sophistication of the enrichment facility, which included hundreds of newly installed centrifuges. The facility has what he described as an “ultramodern control room.”
Hecker, a professor at Stanford University and former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, privately informed the White House of his findings a few days ago, the newspaper said.
Hecker, who left North Korea last week, had previously described the construction by the North Korean regime of an experimental light-water reactor, confirming satellite photographs that had recently been made public.
But until now, Hecker has made no mention of the discovery of a new uranium enrichment operation that can be used to produce weapons grade material. He told the Times that the North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges had already been installed and were running.
The facility apparently has been built with surprising speed. U.S. officials are certain no such facility existed in April 2009 when the last international nuclear inspectors were thrown out of the country.