Satellite imagery shows ramped-up work at North Korea reactor
July 13th, 2012
12:46 AM ET

Satellite imagery shows ramped-up work at North Korea reactor

By Adam Levine

New satellite imagery obtained by CNN's Security Clearance shows increased activity at a North Korean nuclear facility.

The imagery, provided to Security Clearance by GeoEye with analysis by Allision Pucionni at IHS Jane's, shows the extent of construction at the Yongbyon light water reactor since construction resumed this spring on the facility.

The satellite snapshot from June 24 shows components have been added to the reactor building, including across the open roof, according to Puccioni, a senior imagery analyst at IHS Jane's. A "traveling crane" can be seen and is believed to have been added in April.

"This crane can 'swing' over the top of the reactor building to facilitate construction," according to Puccioni. "It will likely assist in mounting the reactor dome."

That dome is visible on the ground beside the main reactor building.

Pyongyang claims the reactor is "intended to help solve domestic energy shortages," according to the North Korea watchers behind the blog 38 North.

"It is also an important component in its effort to build nuclear weapons," according to the blog which published images this spring after construction resumed on the facility. 38 North is run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Even when the dome is in place, a significant amount of work on the building will be necessary, according to Puccioni. The analysts at 38 North detailed what remains.

"The next major step in the construction of this facility will be the loading of the heavy components, such as the pressure vessel, steam generator, and pressurizer, likely through the cylindrical opening in the roof of the reactor containment building. Exactly when that process will begin is unclear; it depends on the availability of the heavy components," according to a May blog post. "Recently, the North Koreans stated that those components were being manufactured parallel to the construction of the reactor buildings. The loading process could last 6-12 months."

North Korea, which withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, had agreed in February to suspend nuclear activity at Yongbyon in return for shipments of food aid from the United States.

But Pyongyang then carried out a failed long-range rocket launch in April that Washington said breached the terms of that deal.

Work on the facility had stopped in December 2011, a development which, according to 38 North, was due either to the death of Kim Jong Il or, more likely, the approaching winter weather.

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Filed under: Asia • North Korea • Satellite imagery • Yongbyon
soundoff (87 Responses)
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  3. Ben

    Snerd, when was the last time you were in the middle-east? You carry the same tune that so many on the left whstile. The issues in the middle-east and Islamic terrorism is not about poverty, past wrongs, oil or anything except that the west and Israel are not Moslem. Oh, they bring up past situations as excuses and the left buys in to them, but that is also part of their strategy. No Arab outside of Israel wants a two state solution. They want all Jews to perish. Actually, they want all non-believers to perish and have a long range plan to try to make that happen.Spend a few years in conversation with folks in the Middle-east and then let's revisit this conversation! You are sorely lacking in first hand experience.Reply

    October 10, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
  4. Tess

    what the?! did the maroon 5 singer adam levine just post this article? because, it's by adam levine, or it could just be another person just claiming the name...

    July 16, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  5. daisy

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    July 16, 2012 at 1:54 am | Reply
    • satan

      durp tee do. ta teedle dee tum. go drink all the stuff under your sink!!!

      July 16, 2012 at 6:36 am | Reply
    • balizar

      Ah sooooo, you must be Kim's 'mystery woman'!

      July 16, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  6. Easy E

    We should get one of our microdrones to nightly drop a pound of borax solution into the reactor and primary loop components. It's just enough that it wouldn't be noticed, until comissioning day when they are absolutely confounded at trying to get the reactor to work. $100 worth of sabotage can go a long way.

    July 15, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
    • louisemowder

      You are, sir, a genius. How do you get this idea directly to Obama or Biden?

      July 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  7. reason

    Instead of spending all of its money on missiles and nukes, the government of North Korea should be spending money on farms and infrastructure for their people. They are starving while their leaders live in the lap of luxury. They are supposed to be working for the good of the public and, like too many other governments out there, are not. At least this project could improve the welfare of the people. P.S. If China was against this, they could easily stop it (who do you think gives North Korea most of its power and food imports).

    July 15, 2012 at 12:12 am | Reply
    • Zoglet

      Considering one in six Americans live on food stamps and that the US spends more money onthe military than the rest of the world combined- I do hope your not being preachy!

      July 15, 2012 at 12:29 am | Reply
  8. snitcher

    i hope they bomb the US Government.
    USA is the only Country who is a danger for humanity

    July 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • Chocolate cupcakes

      We should drop a smart bomb right down that shaft in the picture. And attach snitcher to it.

      July 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
    • vujnio

      It is the worst at least to accomplish that the Korean does it

      July 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • CHARLES

      Yes,They rrrrrrr.

      July 15, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
    • Easy E

      What an ignorant comment. Go visit Haeyong Camp 105 and report for work if you think the N. Koreans are the wronged party. If you survive even 1 week in that Communist Death camp then maybe you can comment on the foibles of Us foreign policy. We may not have a stellar reputation, but we don't commit mass murder against our own people.

      July 15, 2012 at 8:15 am | Reply
      • Joe

        Except the May 4 Massacre

        July 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
      • louisemowder

        They went *way* beyond Communism,, into Idol Worship. Even Red China didn't try to pass a "discovered child of Mao's as the Supreme Ruler of China.

        July 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  9. Kanne Boshem

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    July 14, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
    • Chief ThinksthisisBull

      no

      July 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply
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        July 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  10. matt in nw

    Well ....appears to be in one piece.....the South Koreans must not be too worried. Big thank yous go out to the Pakistanis for selling them the tech.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
  11. Santos

    Why wait n show us proofs! Nuke em.out before they nuke us. Just watch proofs on tv! Don't make other 9/11 mistake!

    July 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      you must be the typical dumb peurto rican.... nuke north korea and the portions of that world will nuke us, numnuts go back to counting bananas instead.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
      • Ryo

        The Pretender in Chief will fall back on his Jimmy Carter doctorine and do ateolubsly nothing but make speeches and blow a lot of wind. Just like Clinton when the Balkans was awash in blood he will simply say that it will cause more problems if America gets involved and NK knows this. SK needs to take out the Nuclear site and retaliate with more force than they are attacked with. After all the war had never officailly ended, it is simply at a stelemate.Reply

        October 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  12. lance

    south korea has lots of cash from their exports they dont need the american military to do the job they should be doing.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      do what job moron? you make it sound like going to war with north korea is that simple... you clearly are an inbred.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  13. k mon

    You should go out from the all the annoyed Koreans world

    July 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
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    July 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  15. cause

    I don't see any difference in the two photos?

    July 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  16. J3sus Sandals

    Maybe they should have just lied to the world like Israel did when they stated construction of the Negev NRC was only an innocent desal plant. Let's face it – NO ONE can be trusted.

    July 13, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
  17. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Mitt Romney said if his prized thoroughbred house is goanna bring home gold for the USA, his Bain based sweat shop he outsourced to NK vis China must be allowed to manafacture our Olympic uniform! I just can't wait to see our four-legged hero in his red white and blue! USA USA USA!

    July 13, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • cheshirecat

      "house" – "goanna" – manafacture? You may be retarded.

      July 13, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
      • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

        horse...manufacture! Haha! My english teacher was republican! Haha!

        July 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • Ben

        its not your teachers fault>>just genetics. And you can't fix stupid

        July 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  18. citizenUSA

    Why should they worry? There's plenty of other aggressive things going on in the world that no one is doing much about. So as we sit around sanctioning, (which they say works but does it?), they just keep advancing to the point that a nuclear war is the end result.

    July 13, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
    • The Decline

      Its is working, however the UN never anticipated that the regime would effectively let the entire country starve. The sanctions have been very effective in the fact they did exactly what they were supposed to do which was to put the country in dire straights in order to force action they wanted. Problem is, they cave, we give them food and assistance to keep the ppl from starving then NK goes right back at it again. It truly is the definition of a vicious cycle.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
      • Bman

        Sanctions effctive in North Korea....really who do they trade with, or better yet what do trade with us? North Korea doesn't make anything and most of it's trade is with China. So we "sanction them" and since they really don't trade with anyone but China it doesn't really work.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
      • Chris

        How is it effective? please explain rather than blaming America's own stupidity in giving food aid... they get resources from China, and Russia. Last I checked both countries are not in America's favor. So sanctions failed I would say.

        July 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • luck

      good point

      July 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
    • luck

      that exac;ly where were headed between iran and n korea being armed for nuclear war and backed by china i say at this point its inedible.theyve been let to create the bomb so whats stopping them to use them,they will eventually and then we will find out who really are our allies and whos behind the US back makeing their secret deals and technology trades and weapon trades,in next 5 years i say unless oboma makes us a communist country and joins another country by leaveing ours weak with military cuts

      July 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
      • balizar

        "Yes, Pat, instead of spinning, I would like to buy some punctuations and a dictionary, please."

        July 16, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  19. Hillbilly Bob

    Dagnabbit, them pesky nukular thingamajigs are 'a sprangin up from here to tarnation.

    July 13, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • Andrew

      Nobody appreciates your stupidity, Bob. We already know Hillbillies are hilarious

      July 13, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  20. alloutnole

    It's a LIGHT WATER reactor, it's exactly what the US preferred them to use for energy production, so why are we making a big deal out of it. In the 90's we opposed HEAVY WATER reactors because they required the same components as a nuclear weapons program to maintain. The compromise was to provide them with the means to build light water reactors instead. Just saying...

    July 13, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
    • citizenUSA

      Good point. Thanks for the clarification. I forget, is anyone inspecting?

      July 13, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • Lee S

      they cant even feed the majority of their citizens and they have lavish projects like this that go no where and only amount to sanctions against their people. before you say the US isnt providing food for its citizens, its not your govts job to provide food and housing for you. Its yours. If you want a govt that provides those things Im sure N Korea would love a propaganda monkey they can parade around.

      July 13, 2012 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • Tom

      Thanks for your voice of reason. It's refreshing.

      July 13, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
  21. Justin

    Frankly, I think it is stupid that this country thinks it can do whatever it wants, build any amount of nuclear weapons, & try to cram democracy down people's throats. But, at the same time, I see no reason to give free aid to a hostile country. I think countries need to mind their own business until they have an actual reason to be involved. North Korea just talks big and rarely follows through. Live and let live.

    July 13, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply
  22. Patrick

    Send In "Team America" to nuetrolize them

    July 13, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
    • Team America

      Team America helps you with spelling! F*!& YEAH!

      July 13, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
      • cheshirecat

        LOL!

        July 13, 2012 at 11:08 am |
      • Ward

        audience. To participate, you must first catree a profile at , then head over to to register. One lucky guy and girl will be selected to have their own online web reality series on

        October 13, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Patrick-2

      I see that Punnie boy here stole my name to spew his anti-Korean feelings. I say make the same deal to North Korea as the one that South Africans already have, that is to have nuclear power for peaceful purposes without building nuclear warheads!

      July 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  23. Dave

    DNC NK headquarters

    July 13, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply
  24. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    The GOP solution: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Unemployed, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Employed, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    July 13, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply
    • The Decline

      Are you serious? What an asinine statement. You're a pathetic child.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Reply
      • Hertz Doughnut

        The truth hurts don't it.

        July 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Perhaps its one of those sweat shops Mitt Romney shipped to China to manafucture our Olympic uniforms!

    July 13, 2012 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • The Decline

      So Mitt Romney is manufacturing the US uniforms now? Wow, interesting. Could have sworn that was some one else....maybe someone who owns his own fashion and design company. Also, if you dont like free trade, please, shut up and go move to a country more suiting to your ignorance

      July 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  26. David M

    North Korea, which withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003, had agreed in February to suspend nuclear activity at Yongbyon in return for shipments of food aid from the United States.

    The key word in that statement is "suspend". They didn't agree to permanently stop the work, only suspend it. I suspect their logic was to suspend the work until the gravy train showed up, then resume work after the gravy train was unloaded. Standard operating procedure for regimes like that.

    July 13, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
    • The Decline

      David, suspension does not necessarily imply the situation is temporary. You can suspend something for an undetermined amount of time effectively making it permanent.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  27. Lou Cypher

    There are times when I suspect our satellite technology makes us more gullible than more informed.

    That site is a well-known "stage", well-known to have international cameras pointed at it. It is well known that anything done there is well-observed. It is no mistake to think DPRK is evil but it is a grave mistake to think they are stupid. Whenever we look there, we are seeing exactly what they want us to see exactly when they want us to see it.

    July 13, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
  28. Paul

    I think since the N. Koreans can't launch an ICBM that goes more than 300 miles that we can safely assume this nuke plant will blow up and wipe out half a million N. Koreans.

    July 13, 2012 at 7:50 am | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Three hundred miles is well within range of South Korea however! Since NK has a new leader, we should use a different approach in trying to bring about peace in the region! The same old policies of sanctions, insulting rhetoric and provacative military exercises on the border won't encourage the North Koreans to change their position but instead would infuriate them and further isolate them! We need to send Hillary Clinton's rear end to begin a new phase of talks with Jung-Un!

      July 13, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
  29. David

    At least this time they broke their promise BEFORE we gave them all the goodies, unlike other times where they took the goodies and then broke their word and continued work on nuclear weapons.

    July 13, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
  30. mark

    let there be bombs

    July 13, 2012 at 6:54 am | Reply
  31. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    But... but...
    "THE ONE" told Kim Jr. to stop playing with A bombs.

    You know "THE ONE" who was going to make the sea jump back

    July 13, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply
  32. madridista23

    Perhaps the silly sods will blow themselves to smitherines.

    July 13, 2012 at 6:38 am | Reply
    • David

      Myabe we could help them with that?!

      July 13, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
  33. Salahuddin Farishta

    Great article on the Korean conflict called The Last Bastion of the Cold War at The Rugged Gent. Also another good one there called North Korea's Death Star.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:16 am | Reply
  34. James

    Bible prophecy will have to be fulfilled with or without talks and sanctions. This world is not our home

    July 13, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
    • cikkuujien

      religious idiot...

      July 13, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply
      • Dave

        With that statement who is the nut exactly....Hint: cikiuujien

        July 13, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • cocoloco

      Where does in the Bible specifically talk about North Korea? It is because of people like you that don't give book name, chapter and verse that people like us, Christians, are bashed by hell-bound atheists, agnostics, and evolutionists. Next time just don't throw a phrase and back it up with facts! True Christianity is a religion of morals, ethics, reason, facts, history and love which comes from the understanding and practice of the New Testament. If you think the Old Testament says anything about North Korea, everything in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus. The book of Revelation talk about the destruction of ancient Rome, and at the end of judgment day. So, what's left? Ignorant evangelicals in the U.S. and the world sensationalize the prophecies of the Bible and make them fit what they want! Fools! Let the Bible interpret itself; then, we would not have morons calling believers 'iditos'!

      God bless you all through Jesus Christ and His salvation! Turn or burn!.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply
      • Chris

        OMG! Finally a religious person with their heads on their shoulders.... you have no idea how many times I wished to have read someone that actually knows what Christianity is rather than a family that state "Either follow our way of Christianity or you will go to hell for everything that we are not pleased with"...... thank you thank you thank you.

        July 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  35. sureshot

    ok, if i had to guess, they are thinking the US is not doing anything about the threat from iran in the middle east only with so called sanctions.i also think north korea and iran are in bed togather. US and allies ( at a very large scale) will have too stop both at the same time.....or they are going to keep laughing in our faces and keep up on the threats

    July 13, 2012 at 2:40 am | Reply
    • Chris

      North Korea never threatened the US directly... only when the US tried to interfere in North Korean affairs.. Only thing the US should be worrying about is an attack on South Korea, which can result in major drawbacks for the US. So basically it is not the NK starting and picking fights with us, it is us starting and picking fights with them over our affairs in Asia. Put any kind of harm on North Korea, not only China, or Russia will be insulted but as will South Korea. Iran is not the same case as North Korea, in technical terms North Korea at this moment is untouchable. We can not lose what ties we have in Asia, no way no how. end of story.

      July 13, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Reply
  36. Cruz

    China is behind this 100 % ....nothing alarming

    July 13, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
    • Chris

      typical fear embraced loser you must be

      July 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  37. RAPTORS OP

    K.

    *goes back to watching NesTea*

    July 13, 2012 at 1:56 am | Reply

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