North Korea appears to be stockpiling nuclear materials, according to chilling satellite images.
According to images analyzed by Stanford University experts, North Korea expanded its uranium mining operations from 2017 to 2020, all while in disarmament talks with the United States.
Satellite images from a North Korean uranium mine appear to show that the rogue state is significantly increasing its nuclear material production.
Experts at Stanford University analyzed the Pyongsan mine snaps and warned that Kim Jong-un could still expand his operations.
Pyongsan uranium can be used for both nuclear power reactors and weapons.
The study, which was published last month in the Science and Global Security journal, uses satellite imagery and machine learning software to detect natural land features as well as non-natural features, which are classified as “other.”
“Other” in this case refers to mine waste, indicating how active the mine is.
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The timing of the shift is particularly intriguing, as it suggests that North Korea was ramping up uranium mining while Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump were negotiating the denuclearization of the peninsula.
The researchers found increased activity at the nearby Pyongsan uranium concentrate plant, where uranium storage containers are built, in other snaps they examined.
Even more terrifying is the fact that, according to Park, the plant’s activity was well below capacity, implying that North Korea could increase production even further.
Park’s future research will examine the use of rail cars to determine what materials are coming in and out of Pyongsan using the same method.
Dan Soller, a senior adviser at Orbital Insight, a geospatial intelligence firm that assisted with the study, reassured that increased uranium mining does not always imply increased nuclear weapons production.
Instead, he believes North Korea is hoping for that assumption to be made by the West.
“In the case of developing yellowcake [uranium]here, they want to keep doing it and make it look bigger than it is, just to send the message that they’re still pursuing their interests in order to get concessions,” he explained.
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