Commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 26 indicates further efforts to restore access to the Tunnel No. 3 complex, formerly referred to as the South Portal.
The original portal (entrance) remains blocked by rubble created when the site was deliberately closed in 2018, and there are no indications of efforts to reopen it. The new portal, which provides more stable access (see 38 North’s report from March 31, 2022), is highlighted by the steep sun angle, which is throwing a dark, defined shadow over the entry point. It is unclear if the portal has been completed yet, given the small amount of spoil that has been observed so far, or what condition the two tunnels in that complex are in.
The area outside the new portal has been leveled and stabilized. A low retaining wall has been renewed and extended on the north side of the leveled area and is intended to minimize erosion. This has been present since 2014 but became more noticeable on April 19 imagery due to its expansion and refurbishment. A ramp or road incline rises to the leveled area allowing vehicle access from the north.
At the east end of the leveled area, the construction of a small support building has been completed. A total of eight new structures (small buildings and sheds) have been erected near the tunnel complex. Dark objects observed around the portal are likely mining equipment and materials. Further south from the portal, along the main road in the direction of the southern site support facilities, a dark, unidentified linear object appears to be lying across the road. It is more likely a new drainage conduit or ditch covered with a grate or sheets of corrugated metal rather than a raised object, such as a pipe, as the latter would block the passage of traffic. It may also be temporary.
Figure 1. Activity observed at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site on April 26, 2022.
No activity is observed at the former North and West Portal areas.