Thermal Imagery Indicates Activity at Yongbyon Nuclear Reprocessing Facilities

Nuclear Weapons
, by , , and Recently acquired LANDSAT 7 and 8 thermal infrared imagery of the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center provide strong indications that during March and April 2021, activity involving the heating of buildings and operations of facility support systems had resumed at several locations. These indications reveal clear patterns, distinct from the surrounding terrain and daily solar heating patterns, that suggest that the Radiochemistry Laboratory, its associated thermal plant, and the centrifuge plant resumed operations during the early part of March 2021 and have continued into mid-April 2021.

Reprocessing Activity at Yongbyon’s Radiochemistry Laboratory?

Nuclear Weapons
, by and At the Yongyon Radiochemistry Laboratory, steam (or smoke) rising from any of the stacks within the radiochemistry laboratory itself is not often observed in commercial satellite imagery. However, the March 30 image shows a plume of steam or smoke emanating from a small support building in the center of the facility. This, while not an indicator of a reprocessing campaign itself, indicates that the building is occupied and being heated.

Recent Activity at the Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (Nam-chon Chemical Complex) and January Industrial Mine

Nuclear Weapons
, by , and Commercial satellite imagery collected during the past eight months indicates that despite the absence of any nuclear testing by North Korea since 2017, the Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant remains operational, is producing uranium concentrate (U3O8, “yellowcake”), and continues to be updated. Yellowcake can be enriched to become highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

We Must Prevent North Korea from Testing Multiple Reentry Vehicles

Ballistic Missiles, Nuclear Weapons
, by If unchecked, North Korea is increasingly likely to resume strategic weapons testing in the months ahead—including tests of the technologies necessary for its missiles to carry multiple nuclear-capable reentry vehicles (RVs). Such missiles would, at a minimum, increase Pyongyang’s ability to challenge U.S. missile defenses, to make the most of its limited resources for strategic weapons production, and to threaten U.S. targets more credibly despite its limited flight testing of RVs.

Hungnam Fertilizer Complex Update: Strategic Modernization for Multi-Purpose Use?

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and The Hungnam Fertilizer Complex has long been associated with producing chemical feed stocks or agents for North Korea’s nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs. Any modernization or improvement in its production capacities warrant close monitoring as they have the potential to support or augment WMD capabilities.

Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (Nam-chon Chemical Complex): Infrastructure Development and Status

Nuclear Weapons
, by , and The Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant represents a critical component of North Korea’s nuclear research and weapons development programs. Through analysis of 100+ medium- and high-resolution declassified and commercial satellite images, this report aims to provide a new and unique look into the facility. It is also the second publication in a series analyzing North Korea’s uranium concentrate plants as well as one of the most comprehensive collections of unclassified information and satellite imagery presently available of the Pyongsan facility.

Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (Nam-chon Chemical Complex)

Nuclear Weapons
, by and The Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (38.318369 N, 126.432360 E) is located in Pyongsan-gun (평산군, Pyongsan County), Hwangbuk-do (황북, North Hwanghae Province), approximately 45 kilometers from the DMZ and 96 kilometers northwest of Seoul—the capital of South Korea. Since approximately 1990 it has occupied an critical role in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (North Korea) nuclear research and weapons programs as the sole known provider of uranium oxide (yellowcake) to these programs for fuel fabrication or enrichment.

Yongbyon Declassified Part VII: Final Stretch of First-Phase Construction Begins

Nuclear Weapons
CIA, declassified KH-4B image, April 20, 1972.
, by Declassified April 1972 satellite imagery the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center show developments which taken as a whole continue to represent both an ongoing first-phase construction project for the facility and early infrastructure development efforts within a longer-term plan for future expansion. This work laid the foundations for the construction of the facility’s first waste storage facility in the years to follow and the massive second phase expansion that would begin during the early-1980s.

Yongbyon Update: February Movement of Radioactive Material? Pt. II

Military, Nuclear Weapons
, by and Satellite imagery acquired on February 14, 2020 shows that the three specialized railcars identified in Beyond Parallel’s report from February 11, 2020 have been moved from west of the Radiochemistry Laboratory to the southern rail yard adjacent to the reported isotope/tritium production facility. A fourth railcar is present in the latest imagery in addition to the three railcars that were captured in imagery from February 10, 2020. These railcars have been associated with the movement of radioactive material in the past. If past practice is any indication, all four cars will leave the Yongbyon facility sometime during the next seven days.