Construction at North Korea’s Kangson Facility: Probable Storage or Offices

Commercial satellite imagery over the past few weeks indicates construction is underway at North Korea’s Kangson facility. While a recent report by NK News has suggested that this “could increase floor space for centrifuges” at what is suspected to be a clandestine uranium enrichment facility, the design of floor plans observed suggests otherwise. Given how the extension has been partitioned, these new spaces are not suitable for a centrifuge hall, but rather provide small storage rooms, workshops or offices. 

The pace of this construction has been rapid, perhaps reflecting an emphasis being placed on its completion and intended growth in the operations on-site. While the function of the Kangson facility remains unclear and contested in open sources, this new extension would not expand enrichment capabilities if this is an enrichment facility. However, if it is, instead, a manufacturing facility supporting uranium enrichment, these additional rooms could facilitate expansion of the enrichment program at Yongbyon and elsewhere.  

Anatomy of the Extension 

The main building at Kangson was a large three-story structure measuring 115 meters long by 48 meters wide and 12 meters high, flanked at each end by vehicle sheds. Prior to this new construction, vehicles could pass behind the building to reach two loading docks.  

On imagery from March 1, 2024, foundations for the new construction had already been laid, and walls were being erected for 10, evenly sized rooms spaced across the entire length of the rear side of the building, each approximately 11 meters long and extending outward approximately nine meters.  

Figure 1. Foundations for new construction and walls for ten evenly sized rooms observed on imagery from March 1, 2024. Image Pleiades NEO © Airbus DS 2024. For media options, please contact [email protected].

This extension now blocks vehicles from passing behind the building, but it appears that covered loading docks will be incorporated at either end of the new construction.  

On imagery from March 4, eight center rooms had been filled with construction materials, and doorways between them were visible. Construction materials and trucks were present, one along the east side of the building and four more in front of the building, along with a truck-mounted crane.  

Figure 2. On imagery from March 4, center rooms were filled with construction materials. Vehicles and a crane were observed at the site. Image Pleiades NEO © Airbus DS 2024. For media options, please contact [email protected].

Imagery from March 14 showed work on the back wall of the new extension was ongoing, with more materials and vehicles around the site. 

Figure 3. Additional vehicles and construction materials observed on imagery from March 14, 2024. Image Pleiades NEO © Airbus DS 2024. For media options, please contact [email protected].

By March 18, blue tarpaulins had been attached to a bracing bar affixed to the main building just below its roofline and extended outward, like an awning, covering most of the center section of the new addition.  

Figure 4. By March 18, 2024, blue tarpaulins were added to cover the center section of construction. Image Pleiades NEO © Airbus DS 2024. For media options, please contact [email protected].

By March 27, additional tarpaulins had been added, covering the entire construction project. These were likely added to protect the workers and structure from the elements during construction, but they also deny further observation of the construction activities beneath. However, the placement of the tarpaulins in relation to the building suggests the new extension could be more than one story high, perhaps equal to the existing interior rooms located along the rear of the building. This would potentially increase the floor area for interior rooms by at least one-third.  

Additionally, what appears to be gray canvas tarps are draped between the window columns. Their placement is likely needed for further protection of the existing interior spaces of the building as windows are removed and construction to join the spaces continues. 

Further developments will be seen in weeks to come, but the exact purpose and implications of this extension to the main building at the Kangson complex can only be established through on-site visits.  

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