A US policy institute said it may have located a secret facility used by North Korea in the early stages of building its program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
A US policy institute said it may have located a secret facility used by North Korea in the early stages of building its program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, which if confirmed would be critical to the success of any future nuclear deal, Reuters reported on July 22.
According to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security seen by Reuters on July 21, there has always been doubt about whether North Korea has disclosed all of its nuclear facilities. The success of any future agreement on freezing or dismantling of the nuclear weapons program of North Korea would depend on confirming their location, the report stated.
A key role in development of centrifuges that refine uranium hexafluoride gas into low-enriched and highly enriched uranium may have been played by the site, located 43 km (27 miles) from the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, the report said.
“It is necessary to identify where North Korea enriches uranium and part of that is understanding where it has done it in the past,” the president of the Institute, David Albright, said.
The centrifuge research and development facility that have been used earlier is believed to have been inside an aircraft part factory situated inside a mountain next to Panghyon Air Base. According to the report, it was located using commercial satellite imagery.
Nobody can say whether the aircraft part factory is still operational, but, according to information from defectors indicates, there can be three production-scale centrifuge manufacturing plants operating in the country at the unconfirmed locations, said David Albright.
Pyongyang’s fourth underground nuclear test in January and a series of missile launches have escalated the tensions between North Korea and South Korea, the United States and Japan.
The base of North Korea’s nuclear program is highly enriched plutonium and uranium separated from spent reactor fuel rods. The North Korea’s government denied having a gas centrifuge program for more than a decade. However, in November 2010, North Korea announced the existence of a production-scale gas centrifuge plant at Yongbyon, but, at the same time, noticed that there were not any other such facilities in the country.
According to the report, in June 2000, a Japanese newspaper, citing unnamed Chinese sources, said that a facility was located inside Mount Chonma. However, “knowledgeable government officials” has recently provided information that allows to suggest the undeclared facility was associated with an underground aircraft parts factory.
The Institute for Science and International Security has cooperated with Allsource Analysis, which interprets satellite imagery, and came to conclusion that it, most likely, was Panghyon Aircraft Plant, which made parts for Soviet-supplied fighters.
According to the report, citing an unnamed official, between 200 and 300 centrifuges could have been held by the site.