North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center: Crane Seen at the Experimental Light Water Reactor

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu

Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center indicated the presence of a boom crane at the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) next to the fuel cask transloading port on March 22. The crane was not present in imagery from March 19 and had been moved away from the ELWR by March 28. The exact purpose is unclear based on imagery alone. The crane may have been used to load equipment or materials into the reactor dome, to support work on the vent stack or some other maintenance related activity.

Figure 1. Overview of ELWR from March 19, 2019 to March 28, 2019.

Figure 1A. Overview of the ELWR at Yongbyon, March 19, no mobile boom crane in proximity to the ELWR. Image Pleiades © CNES 2019, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected]
Figure 1B. Overview of the ELWR at Yongbyon, March 22, mobile boom crane near fuel port. Image Pleiades © CNES 2019, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected]
Figure 1C. Overview of the ELWR at Yongbyon, March 28, mobile boom crane has been moved. Image Pleiades © CNES 2019, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected]

There is no direct evidence to suggest that the ELWR, which has been under construction for nearly 10 years, is approaching operational status.

Activity at the rest of the Yongbyon facility is minimal.

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