ISIS Reports

New Satellite Image of Construction at North Korea Nuclear Site

April 27, 2011

ISIS has obtained commercial satellite imagery taken on March 8, 2011 of the Yongbyon nuclear center in North Korea showing progress in the construction of what North Korea has stated will be a light water reactor (see figure 1).  A cylinder can be seen in the image and it measures approximately 21 meters across.  At this diameter, the cylinder would be too large for a light water reactor containment vessel.  It could, however, be part of the containment structure for a light water reactor.  There is new excavation next to the cylinder as well (see figure 1).

There is also a new clearing with a crane and what could be construction materials in an adjacent area northwest of the cylinder (see figures 1 and 2).  It is unclear if this is a construction support or staging area or if a structure will be built there.

Several South Korean news agencies reported in early April that satellite imagery from March 24, 2011 showed what could be a new nuclear facility next to the cylinder.  Korea Broadcasting Service released an image and highlighted another structure next to the cylinder.  The Chosun Ilbo described it as a “dome-shaped structure”.  The March 8th image does not yet show this structure.  ISIS will continue to acquire new commercial satellite imagery of the construction progress.

The new gas centrifuge plant at the Yongbyon fuel fabrication facility can also be seen in the imagery (see figure 3).  There do not appear to be any major changes to this building.

Figure 1.  Commercial satellite image from March 8, 2011 of the new construction near the site of the destroyed cooling tower for the 5 megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear center.  North Korea has stated this is a construction site for a new light water reactor.  The cylinder seen in the image measures approximately 21 meters across.  There is also a new clearing with a crane and possibly construction materials in an area near the 5 MW reactor.  The cylinder may appear to be oval-shaped, however, this is an optical illusion caused largely by the shadows cast and partly by the angle of the image.  The diameter of the cylinder remains relatively constant around the circle—accounting for the angle.

 

Figure 2.  A comparison of an area adjacent to the new construction as seen in a November 3, 2010 and the March 8, 2011 image.  This area is mostly empty in the earlier image.  In the March 2011 image, there appears to be some site clearing, a crane, and what could be construction materials.  It is unclear if this area is or will serve as construction support or staging, of if a structure will be built there.

 

Figure 3.  Commercial satellite image from March 8, 2011 showing the new gas centrifuge plant at the fuel fabrication complex at the Yongbyon nuclear center.

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