North Korea's Nuclear Plans, In Pictures

Satellite pictures of North Korea's nuclear buildings have been analysed by nuclear scientist Siegfried S. Hecker and North Korea expert Robert Carlin, in an attempt to discern exactly how much progress the country has made in its fission-powered escapades.

Both have personally visited the aforementioned facilities, so if anyone's going to make an educated call, it's them. Turns out, North Korea's done quite a bit, but not as much as the country's official claims would suggest.

The photos, dated between June 2009 and November 2011, provide a staggered depiction of how far North Korea's enrichment facility and light water reactor have come. In that time, the reactor's external components have almost reached completion -- it's essentially ready to have its internals placed inside. However, the speed at which North Korea's reached this point has analysts concerned. From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Was the seismic analysis of the reactor site sufficiently rigorous? Did the regulatory authorities have the skills and independence required to license this reactor in such a short time period? And do Yongbyon [the construction site] specialists have sufficient experience with the very demanding materials requirements for the internal reactor components, including the pressure vessel, steam generator, piping and fuel-cladding materials?

The reactor's planned output isn't massive (100MW thermal, 25MW electric, compared to the 4696MW combined output of Fukushima's Dai-ichi reactors), but even a small scale nuclear disaster is a serious matter.

As for the enrichment facility, North Korea declared in September 2009 that it had successfully conducted "experimental uranium enrichment", however, Hecker and Carlin believe this isn't possible, judging by the state of the site. According to the pair, it "must have been achieved at a different facility".

If you'd like to delve deeper into the analysis, be sure to visit the BotAS link below.

[Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, via Wired]

Images: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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    This is a blueprint for war declaration on N. Korea by U.S.A. Remember Iraq?

    lol i remember seeing something like this is 2002....
    plz!! this country dosent have the means of doing this, just like iran. u know whats 2000x harder than building a nuke? building something to launch it long distance. this country does not have power to 90+% of it, its has planes and trucks form the 70s and u think its going to destroy the world?
    plz dont fuel americans propaganda gizmodo, dont contribute to the bullshit... its bee so dam long!! arntr u sick of it to?!

      Please, please use please instead of plz, in fact just spell correctly.

      This article if anything should help alleviate Americans fears by showing that NK's most likely not even capable of "experimental uranium enrichment” which they claimed to be.

      Secondly the threat here isn't really a concern for America. It's China, Russia, Korea, etc. that are the ones under a serious risk from fallout if this shoddily built reactor fails; Which is more of a possibility due to the rushed construction.

      plz read and understand articles on gizmodo, dont contribute to the bullshit… its bee so dam long!! arntr u sick of it to?!

        So would it not be plausible for America to want to go in there and safely destroy the site anyway? The friction between NK and China/Russia/South Korea over the potential fallout may not be worth the risk.

        Well.. South Korea is basically America as far as that part of the world is concerned. Either way though, a reactor "incident" potentially has global consequences depending on the outcome. With some disasters of this nature, they are curtailed by the safety infrastructure in place, so the effects of the disaster are minimised... the concern I have, and I'm sure others do too, is that not only is it likely that there would be a disaster but that there would not be the safety infrastructure in place to minimise the damage.. making it a potentially global problem rather than one contained to the north-east asian area.

        NK and China are allies. America and SK are allies.

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