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Activity at North Korea’s Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory and Uranium Enrichment Plant

The 5-MWe nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which is the source of North Korea’s plutonium. Courtesy: LLNL

Satellite imagery indicates continued signs of operation at the thermal plant that supplies steam to the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory (RCL) where plutonium is recovered from spent reactor fuel. There also appears to be additional activity at one of the cooling units of the RCL, although its purpose is unclear. Despite these activities, it is still premature to suggest that spent fuel reprocessing is underway to extract plutonium for nuclear weapons or whether the site is being prepared to process radioactive waste.

There is also new activity at the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP) Complex, including smoke or vapor coming from the UO2 Production Process Building and the spread of a yellowish substance in front of the UEP.

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