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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Yongbyon (Nyongbyon)

Radiochemical Laboratory


Credit: DigitalGlobe. Copyright (c) DigitalGlobe. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Online and news media distribution or publishing requires permission from DigitalGlobe.

New Activity at the Yongbyon Facility as of 28 January 2003

Commercial satellite images from Digital Globe depicted possible North Korean efforts to prepare for the reprocessing of spent fuel in order to extract plutonium. A pair of images acquired on 15 January 2003 and 28 January 2003 showed smoke coming from a coal fired steam plant as well as steam coming from the steam line connecting the steam plant to the plutonium reprocessing facility.

Subsequent imagery, taken one week later, suggested but did not confirm unambiguously that the coal-fired steam plant appeared to have ceased operation. This sequence suggested that the operation of the plant in early January 2003 may have been intended to evaluate the readiness of the facility to support eventual reprocessing. The later imagery, suggesting that operations may have halted, was consistent with an interpretation that reprocessing had not begun.

In the early 1990's, the Clinton Administration identified reprocessing as a "red line" activity that might provoke an American military strike against Yongbyon.

Overview of the Yongbyon reprocessing facility and the coal-fired steam plant as of 15 January 2003

Overview of the Yongbyon reprocessing facility and the coal-fired steam plant as of 28 January 2003

Leaking steam from the transmission lines and exhaust from the coal smoke stack indicate the steam plant has been recently reactivated

Exhaust can be seen from coming from the shadow of the smoke stack indicate the steam plant is in operation


Radiochemical Laboratory
Plutonium reprocessing facility

Plutonium reprocessing facility as of March 2, 2002



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