North Korea appears to be expanding the size of the uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon by about 25 percent. @DaveSchmerler, @Joshua_Pollack and I think this may relate to growing weapons requirements for highly-enriched uranium.
"US officials acknowledge," @ZcohenCNN writes "those developments could signal plans to increase production of weapons-grade uranium, according to two sources familiar with the situation."…
Why now? In January, Kim Jong Un announced that "continuously push ahead with the production of super-sized nuclear warheads." That means thermonuclear weapons --and secondaries require a *lot* of HEU.
With North Korea conducting a reprocessing campaign and restarting the gas-graphite reactor, it looks like fissile material production is in full swing at Yongbyon. Here my write-up with @Joshua_Pollack and @DaveSchmerler.…

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More from @ArmsControlWonk

17 Sep
I've noticed that some people are expressing skepticism that the DPRK could have acquired or developed a 1,500 km-range land-attack cruise missile. TL/DR: It's not 1978 any more.
A short thread.
Starting in 2014, North Korea showed ship-based copies of Russia's Kh-35 cruise missile. In 2017, North Korea test-fired a land-based variant of the Kh-35, called the Kumsong-3. ImageImage
The Kh-35, also known as the Kharpunski, is a fairly capable 130 km-range cruise missile developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It used the R-95-300 turbofan engine. (The engine produces 300-400 kgf of thrust and weighs 95 kg). ImageImageImage
Read 9 tweets
12 Sep
North Korea tested a 1500 km-range cruise missile, which is capable of delivering a nuclear or conventional warhead against targets throughout South Korea and Japan. A short thread.
Kim Jong Un, in January, announced that North Korea had developed "intermediate-range cruise missiles" during his speech to the Worker's Party Congress. As a result, all the DPRK watchers I know had "LACM test" on their 2021 bingo cards. The national defence science sector developed the super-larg
At the time, Kim's remark caused a lot of us to reassess some launchers we saw at the October 2020 and January 2021 parades. The system tested looks a bit different from the one in the parade. One difference of several: The system tested today had five canisters instead of four.
Read 9 tweets
31 Aug
The @iaeaorg announced that North Korea restarted its 5 MWe gas-graphite plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon in July. A short thread with some satellite images on open source monitoring of nuclear reactor operations.
The @iaeaorg observed that North Korea was discharging cooling water into the river. Reactors get very hot when they operate. North Korea cools the reactor core with CO2 gas (hence "gas-graphite") and then uses water in a secondary cooling loop.
If North Korea runs the reactor, it must dump hot water in the river or the core will melt. Water discharge signaling operations is what the @iaeaorg and the open source community saw over the summer. @planet got an especially pretty picture of water discharge on July 30.
Read 10 tweets
23 Jun
Last week, Iran conducted a failed space launch. Iran is now getting ready to try again. @DaveSchmerler and I worked it all out with open sources, then @ZcohenCNN got the Pentagon to confirm it. A short OSINT thread. 1/10
Last week, @DaveSchmerler noticed that a June 6 image of the Imam Khomeini Spaceport from @Maxar showed indicators that are normally associated with space launches in Iran. These are the same signatures that we used to predict previous space launches. 2/10
One of those signatures is a lot of vehicles showing up at the horizontal checkout building. On June 6, there were more than a dozen vehicles there -- something that only happens before space launches. 3/10
Read 10 tweets
10 Jun
Going through Nexis, the term "lab leak" appears occasionally in news about past events (Winnipeg 1999, China 2004 and the UK 2007) but it is largely confined to headlines where space is tight.
Scholar articles are more revealing. There are very few uses of "lab leak" or "laboratory leak" in scholarly journals *except* in reference to the current pandemic.…
Read 5 tweets
23 Apr
It wasn't an explosion -- it was a test of a solid rocket motor. A thread. (1/12)
Here is the video that caused all the fuss. There is no explosion, just an intense fire that seems to go out by itself. (2/12)
Compare what you see in that video with images of a test of a large solid propellant rocket motor in the US, especially at the 3:11 mark. (3/12)
Read 13 tweets

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