U.N. atom chief has "great concern" over North Korea

VIENNA Thu Dec 2, 2010 5:32am EST

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Revelations about North Korea's expanded nuclear program are of "great concern," the U.N. atomic watchdog's chief Yukiya Amano said on Thursday.

North Korea boasted about its nuclear advances earlier this week, saying it was operating a uranium enrichment plant with thousands of centrifuges, which could offer the reclusive state a second pathway to make a nuclear bomb.

"It was with great concern that I learned of recent reports about the new uranium enrichment facility, as well as the construction of a light water reactor, in (North Korea)," Amano told the International Atomic Energy Agency's governing board.

North Korea has refused full IAEA oversight since 2002 and expelled remaining inspectors last year, leaving the Vienna-based agency with little means to assess its latest nuclear claims.

Details about North Korea's uranium enrichment activities surfaced several weeks ago in a report by a U.S. scientist who had been invited to the country.

The reclusive state said the enrichment work was aimed at atomic power production, but it already has a plutonium-based nuclear device and carried out two nuclear test explosions in 2006 and 2009. So far it has not shown that it has a working, deliverable nuclear bomb.

(Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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