Secret Bases: DPRK to Restart Reactor?

Note: 17th in a series on North Korea
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5MW Reactor on 2/7/2013
(Source: 38 North/DigitalGlobe)

5MW Reactor on 3/29/2013
(Source 38 North/DigitalGlobe)

It is not just all words and sabre rattling on the part of DPRK’s young new leader, Kim Jong-un.

As incredible as this seems, there is mounting evidence that North Korea has, indeed, begun preparations to restart its dormant 5MW plutonium reactor in order to build a nuclear weapons arsenal; just like they’ve been saying.

The new evidence was outlined by North Korean watchdog site 38 North:
Satellite Images Show New Construction at North Korea’s Plutonium Production Reactor; Rapid Restart?” – Nick Hansen and Jeffrey Lewis, 38 North, 4/3/2013

The article came out one day after I confidently predicted that North Korea wouldn’t do it. I hate when that happens! North Korea remains full of surprises.

DPRK has resumed work at the old 5MW plutonium reactor. It was mothballed in late 2007. At the time even it’s cooling tower was demolished. A Light Water Reactor (LWR) is now being built nearby on the same site.

A big question is, exactly how long has DPRK been preparing to restart the old plant?

Google Earth™ (GE) provides that answer. It was around 9/5/2012.

Google Earth™ Tells All!

Google Earth image dated 9/5/2012 shows “new construction” foundation reported by 38 North
(Explore sprawling Yongbyon 5MW reactor area for yourself using limited Google Maps™)

The above Google Earth satellite image shows that some of the “new construction” at the old 5MW reactor site got started 7 months ago; not just 6 weeks as stated in the 38 North article.

A review of GE history shows that, as 38 North says, most of the new construction has taken place since early February.

All you need to do to discover new things others haven’t is know where to look. It’s easier than most folks think. A smidgen of data from the news, a couple logical keyword searches and maybe a bit of rummaging and you can find anything.

GE has a growing history of satellite images. Not necessarily on purpose, but they include super secret military complexes all over the world. Just about any secret places you can think of have high-res images you can browse.

For example, GE has 29 different close-up, free-access high-resolution images of North Korea’s 5MW plutonium reactor in its history. That is a lot of images for one place, but not rare. Image dates range from 4/1/2002 to 1/5/2013.

Using GE, armchair sleuths have the ability to pull back and look around to see other things nearby that the experts might have missed or just didn’t think to tell us about.

For example, less than 3,000 ft away from the 5MW reactor is an unfinished 50 MW plutonium nuclear reactor. Why don’t the North Koreans try finishing the one 10-times bigger instead of rebuilding the puny little partially dismantled one?

Even closer, 500 ft away from the 5MW reactor, is a light water uranium reactor that DPRK has been feverishly working on for the last 2 years. Why don’t they concentrate on finishing that reactor instead of spreading themselves thin with the old one? It doesn’t make much sense.

The sleuth can also develop a timeline of building activity from GE’s history images you don’t get elsewhere.

GE gets its images from the same source as 38 North. Their only advantage is they pay services like DigitalGlobe to target their commercial satellites more often on the places they are monitoring.

The armchair sleuth is limited to whatever is provided in the public domain by Google Earth.

But even at that, you can find out a lot more about secret military places than ever gets reported in the newspaper.


DPRK has done everything its doing right now before. What is different this time is they haven’t ever done all of them at the same time. This time they’ve added new twists.

Last month DPRK declared the 1953 armistice invalid which reinstates a technical state of war between North and South Korea. It has completely shut down the Kaesong industrial cooperative shared with the south. It has positioned a least one missile in firing position and warned diplomats and foreigners in threatened areas to leave. The U.S. has taken the threats serious enough to move defensive Patriot missiles onto Guam.

Now DPRK really is restarting its only previously operational nuclear reactor to build more nuclear weapons. It is further evidence that the threats are real.

It looks like DPRK is preparing for war.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Apr 11, 2013, in Business, Government, Military, news, North Korea, Politics, Satellite images, science, Secret base. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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