Sunchon 39°25'N 125°56"E / 39.423, 125.941
Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory
Sunchon Nitroline Fertilizer Factory
Sunchon Vinalon Plant
North Korea has at least eight industrial facilities that can produce chemical agents; however, the production rate and types of munitions are uncertain. Presumably one or more of the agents [sarin, tabun, phosgene, adamsite, prussic acid and a family of mustard gases] comprising the basis of North Korean chemical weapons are produced at the Sunchon Nitroline Fertilzer Factory and/or the Sunchon Vinalon Plant, probably including blood and blister agents.
The 2.8 Vinylon factory and Soonchun Vinylon factory produce 60,000 tons and 50,000 tons respectively. But due to shortage of electric power and coal and to obsolete small-scale facilities, productivity is low. Vinylon textile (100,000 tons) made from "Anthracite coal + limestone", and viscous textile made from timber and reed occupy an 88% share of total production capacity. On the other hand, because Vinylon is hard to dye and shrinks after washing, and viscous textile generates poisonous gas and waste water during its processing, they are treated as inferior to those of advanced countries.
The synthetic fiber complex in Sunchon, the country's largest, began operation in 1989 after completing its first stage of construction. When all stages are completed, production capacity was expected to reach 100,000 tons of synthetic fiber, 1 million tons of calcium carbide, 750,000 tons of methanol, 900,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizers, 250,000 tons of caustic soda, 250,000 tons of vinyl chloride, and 400,000 tons of soda ash per year.
North Korean uranium mines are located in Kusong in North Pyongan province, Pyongsan in North Hwanghae province, and Sunchon in South Pyongan province. Natural uranium has been processed near the cities of Sunchon and Pyongsan since the 1960's. The Sunchon District mining complex is one of the country's leading coal mines, along with the Pukchang District mining complex.
By 2013 fertilizer and pesticides were in very short supply. The nation needed 750,000 metric tons of fertilizer each year, but only hds 60,000 metric tons available to use during the spring planting season. Only The DPRK has two chemical fertilizer plants, one in Sariwon and a second in Hamhung. Only the Hamhung plant was operating and producing some ammonium sulphate fertilizer. The Sariwon plant was designed to produce urea, but this requires petroleum which is very scarce. The DPRK government plans to plant 200,000 hectares of barley and winter wheat in the fall. The program has ample seed but requires 530,000 metric tons of urea fertilizer.
In July 2017, Korean Central News Agency announced the groundbreaking ceremony of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory. "The factory is of important significance in increasing the agricultural production by producing more fertilizer," KCNA reported.
After a wave of news reports suggesting he was gravely ill or even dead, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared in public for the first time in 21 days. Kim’s venue choice for his reemergence was relatively mundane: the completion ceremony for a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, a city about 50 kilometers north of the capital, Pyongyang. State television showed a smiling Kim, smoking a cigarette and casually chatting with senior officials as he sauntered around the plant. Though at times he was shuttled about in a golf cart, Kim showed no obvious signs of health problems.
The development of the factory had been closely watched in open-source satellite analysis for years. The Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory had been identified by Kim as one of the most important projects of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. Kim had visited the site, which began operations on 07 January 2020, several times. It is one of only a handful of “important construction projects” listed in a Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) session on the state budget in April 2019 under the C1 umbrella. The project was built on the site along the Taedong river of the old Sunchon Nitro-Lime Fertilizer Factory, which was demolished between late 2016 and mid-2017.
Plants under the C1 umbrella could be doubling as production bases for long-range missile fuel. This would be unsymmetrical di-methyl-hydrazine (UDMH), which analysts Jeffrey Lewis, founder of Arms Control Wonk, and others with 38 North suggested in late 2017 could be produced by SAS-affiliated plants.
The plant is suspected of having a dual-use capability that would help North Korea produce yellow cake uranium for its weapons. North Korea could be using fertilizer factories it is building to produce more nuclear material by extracting uranium from phosphoric acids. "Margaret Croy noted 06 April 2020 "Several states have succeeded in extracting “yellowcake” uranium from phosphoric acid as part of the phosphate fertilizer production process. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has both the means and motivation to undertake such work, thus significantly altering existing open-source assessments of how much yellowcake uranium North Korea could produce annually, which in turn affects estimates of how many nuclear warheads DPRK can make."
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