North Korea attempting to conceal expanding uranium plant

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North Korea attempting to conceal expanding uranium plant

North Korea is trying to conceal the expansion and changes it is making to its Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), according to satellite imagery from a US-based watchdog group. 

The group, 38 North, found that as recently as Oct. 1, construction just north of the plant’s Cascade Hall #2 at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center was covered. In September, the watchdog group shared satellite imagery of the same area, and at the time, it wasn’t covered. 

Before it was covered, the space reportedly measured around 137.8 feet by 49.2 feet including the walls. The original images also showed six circles, around 9.8 feet in diameter each, towards the eastern end of the hall. 

Any additional details of the area’s layout or construction can no longer be seen due to the covering. 

While it is unclear what the exact purpose of the building is, 38 North speculated the country is producing low-enriched uranium at two other halls, noting that the new one could potentially be used to “enrich low-enriched uranium to weapons grade” as it is made available. 

Recently, North Korea has been thought to have restarted a five-megawatt reactor, historically used to produce plutonium and support its nuclear program, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Yongbyon’s Uranium Enrichment Plant.
38 North speculated that the new one could potentially be used to “enrich low-enriched uranium to weapons grade” as it is made available. 
38north.org

The new satellite images come as North Korea has been consistently test-firing anti-aircraft missiles. 

On Oct. 1, the country announced its second launch in the week and at least the fourth in a month. 

The missile test was a “remarkable combat performance” and included twin rudder controls and other new technologies, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

A North Korean nuclear plant.
North Korea has been thought to have restarted a five-megawatt reactor, historically used to produce plutonium and support its nuclear program.
Kyodo/REUTERS
Missile test.
North Korea has been consistently test-firing anti-aircraft missiles. 
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Kim Jong Un.
North Korea has accused the US of keeping “hostile policy” and demanded an end its joint military exercises with South Korea.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

The test was “of very practical significance in studying and developing various prospective anti-aircraft missile system,” KCNA said.

Shortly before those tests, North Korea accused the U.S. of keeping “hostile policy” and demanded President Biden end its joint military exercises with South Korea. The northern country has also called on its southern partner to halt such “hostile policies.”

“If (the United States) is really desirous of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula, they should take the first step towards giving up its hostile policy against the DPRK by stopping permanently the joint military exercises and the deployment of all kinds of strategic weapons which are leveled at the DPRK in and around the Korean Peninsula,” North Korean Ambassador Kim Song said at the UN General Assembly.

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