N.Korea Can Produce More Uranium Than Current Rate: report
North Korea can get all the uranium it needs for nuclear weapons through its existing Pyongsan mill, and satellite imagery of tailings piles suggests the country can produce far more nuclear fuel than it is, a new academic study concludes.
Despite a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons tests since 2017, North Korea has said it is continuing to build its arsenal, and this year it appeared to have restarted a reactor that is widely believed to have produced weapons-grade plutonium.
According to research published last month in the journal Science & Global Security by researchers at Stanford University and an Arizona-based mining consulting company, North Korea may be able to increase production, and has no need for other uranium mills.
It is clear that the DPRK appears to have substantially more milling capacity than it has been using to date, the authors of the report stated, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It means that the DPRK could produce much greater quantities of milled natural uranium if desired.
The Pyongsan Uranium Concentration Plant and its associated mine are North Korea’s only publicly acknowledged source of yellowcake, or uranium ore, according to analysts.
The report comes as other satellite imagery shows North Korea is building a large expansion at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which analysts say may be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Given the DPRK’s active nuclear program, it is of utmost importance to assess and understand its nuclear materials production capabilities, wrote the report’s authors, who submitted their findings in April.
These capabilities govern the rate at which North Korea might expand its nuclear arsenal, determine the magnitude of the threat to international security and the challenge of potential nuclear disarmament, and measure North Korea’s ability to fuel its future nuclear energy program, the report said.