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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Yongbyon (Nyongbyon)

New excavation work

Excavation near North Korea's 5MW reactor at Yongbyon, was observed in an image taken on September 26, 2010 from the GeoEye 1 satellite.

The imagery shows what appears to be a 100 by 150 feet (30 x 45 meters) excavation which occupies an area 15,000 square feet (or 150 square meters) in space. As of early October 2010, the purpose of the excavation was unknown.

It is important to note that there is nothing in the imagery yet that indicates a purpose for the space.

This does not, however, exclude the possibility that the excavation is a prelude to a new cooling tower or pumping station being built at that site; thereby allowing North Korea to restart the 5MW reactor and continue to extract additional plutonium from its supply of fuel rods.

Additional clarity will be provided in the forthcoming months and years if footings and concrete foundation are poured and/or any above ground piping or trenching are detected in subsequent satellite imagery, as this would suggest the presence of below-ground pipes from the reactor to the cooling tower, or a pumping house to the river nearby to the east, and indicate a possible restart to the 5MW reactor.

New excavation work detected at Yongbyon, North Korea

This satellite imagery overview taken on 17 April 2009 shows the 5MW reactor as well as the remnants of the demolished cooling tower at the upper left of the image, prior to excavation work having begun.
Credit: GeoEye.com

This satellite image taken on 26 September 2010 shows a portion of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Visible in the image is the 5MW reactor located in the bottom quadrant of the image and the new excavation activity near the location of the old cooling tower.
Credit: GeoEye.com

This satellite image shows a 17 April 2009 close-up detail of the demolished cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear facility prior to the new excavation activity being detected.
Credit: GeoEye.com

This closer view of a satellite image taken on 26 September 2010 shows the recent excavation of the 15,000 square foot hole in the ground. when fully finished an estimated 450,000 cubic feet of earth will have been removed from the site. Also visible in the imagery are a new building to the left of the activity site as well as a newly poured concrete pad in the upper left.
Credit: GeoEye.com

Comparative satellite imagery of the suspicious excavation site at Yongbyon, North Korea, from mid-April 2009 and late-September 2010

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Page last modified: 03-04-2013 19:01:01 ZULU