North Korea's Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Published on May 13, 2021
Determination and verification of the nuclear activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are critical to ongoing disarmament and nonproliferation efforts. This study assesses the complete nuclear fuel cycle of the DPRK, from its capacity to produce fissile material precursors at mining and milling facilities in Pyongsan, to activity at the main Nuclear Scientific Research Center in Yongbyon. An interdisciplinary approach is used to analyze the different stages of the DRPK’s nuclear fuel cycle. In investigating the uranium ore grade and ore production capacity at the mining and milling facilities, we combine analysis of archival geological maps, geological field survey reports, and first-hand collection and geochemical analysis of comparable rock samples from the Korean Peninsula. In analyzing the ongoing activities at fissile material production facilities, we integrate satellite imagery analysis with machine learning algorithms, allowing for automated analysis of large image sets.

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