Wonderful: North Korea reveals secret uranium enrichment facility

posted at 8:54 pm on November 21, 2010 by Allahpundit

Like Iran, they claim they need to do a little light enrichin’ in order to generate fuel for their new light-water reactor. Except … the reactor won’t be ready until 2012 at the earliest, and according to the U.S. nuclear scientist who visited both facilities, there’s reason to believe they won’t finish it at all. Not that it would matter if they did: Nuclear reactors are useful from a weapons standpoint only insofar as they produce plutonium waste, which can then be repurposed into a Nagasaki-type bomb. But the NorKs have already figured that technology out per the two nuclear tests they’ve conducted since 2006. The worry here is that they’re now pursuing a Hiroshima-type bomb based on uranium enriched to 90 percent purity — or, maybe, that they’re thinking of selling that uranium instead to the highest black market bidder.

Those are the basics, but the real bombshell here is the timeline.

The scientist, Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building that had housed an aging fuel fabrication center, and that were operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.” The North Koreans claimed 2,000 centrifuges were already installed and running, he said.

American officials know that the plant did not exist in April 2009, when the last Americans and international inspectors were thrown out of the country. The speed with which it was built strongly suggests that the impoverished, isolated country, which tested its first nuclear device in 2006, had foreign help and evaded strict new United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed to punish its rejection of international controls…

“The intel agencies dropped the ball,” said Jack Pritchard, a former State Department official who visited North Korea’s main nuclear complex, Yongbyon, a week before Dr. Hecker’s visit and heard North Korean boasts of a new capability.

A senior intelligence official said Saturday evening that “it is wrong for anyone to assert that U.S. intelligence agencies somehow missed the boat,” adding, “We have been aware of North Korean uranium enrichment activities for years.”

A senior administration official said the North Koreans “very probably have other facilities” that pre-dated the one at Yongbyon and have not been detected.

Do note, the enrichment facility isn’t being built in a bunker inside a mountain. It’s right out in the open, well within view of U.S. spy satellites, housed in a building that’s part of the Yongbyon nuclear complex that America’s been monitoring for years. Not only do they know we’re watching, they clearly wanted us to see it. In which case, unless U.S. intel agencies are irredeemably incompetent — a distinct possibility given their track records in Iraq and Iran — they probably already did know about it and have kept quiet to see how North Korea would play it. One alarming possibility per weapons experts David Albright and Paul Brannan: Could be that the NorKs have other secret enrichment facilities and merely moved the centrifuges from one of those to a public site to get America’s attention, which would help explain the unnerving speed at which they were able to put this whole thing together. (Iran is suspected of having a dozen or more secret sites too.) Remember, not only is centrifuge technology notoriously hard to master, but the actual parts are surprisingly hard to come by. Iran was reportedly reduced to starting its own nuclear black market a few years ago in case neither the A.Q. Khan network nor its native manufacturing capabilities were able to provide the components it needed. If it’s tough for Iran, imagine how much tougher it should be for a country that’s poorer, more geographically isolated, and (like Iran) under UN sanction. And yet, somehow, bam — 2,000 centrifuges installed in 18 months. Unless the equipment doesn’t actually work and was installed merely for show (Hecker’s team was unable to verify that the centrifuges are operable), then clearly they’ve gotten a lot of help from some very knowledgeable allies.

Albright and Brannan wonder whodunnit:

It is also true that a centrifuge plant does not exist in a vacuum. It is still unknown where North Korea researches, develops, and manufactures centrifuges…

Hecker reports on a modern control room at the plant. ISIS learned that North Korean procurement entities obtained abroad modern computerized control equipment used to run a plant composed of centrifuge cascades. This equipment is dual-use, also used in the petrochemical industry, but it was the same as those acquired by Iran to run its centrifuges. ISIS did not learn who more recently supplied the plant with frequency converters or the subcomponents used by North Korea to make them domestically, but Iran and North Korea appear in some cases to use similar illicit procurement networks. It is possible that the North Korean plant(s) could be vulnerable to the Stuxnet worm.

The UN released a long-delayed report just two weeks ago accusing North Korea of transferring missile technology to Iran, Syria, and Burma; China had tried to block the report’s release for six months. Meanwhile, just last month, the Congressional Research Service took a look at how well UN sanctions are working to restrain North Korean proliferation and concluded that “the findings include a stark reminder that U.S. and China interests regarding North Korea are largely incongruent. While the United States presses for elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, China’s primary focus is on preserving regional stability.” One would think that an arms race in the Far East touched off by new North Korean proliferation would be enough of a threat to “regional stability” to get China to rein in its client state, but maybe the Chinese are calculating that a little instability serves the greater good of expanding their own regional influence by proxy. Their grumbling about U.S. interference in east Asia has gotten louder this year; since they’re the only international actor with any real leverage over North Korea, this new bit of nuclear blackmail by the NorKs gives them leverage over us too insofar as it forces us to seek their help to keep Kim in check.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong and the new enrichment facility is as much a surprise to China as it is to everyone else. That’s … actually more alarming, since it means that there’s really no rational actor providing some sort of check on NorK ambitions. We may find out more about that soon, and not in a good way: Reportedly, Japan and South Korea think a new North Korean nuclear test is in the offing. Exit question: What’s Obama’s move now? Back to the bargaining table to discuss foreign aid, etc, in exchange for denuclearization, or can he simply not afford to show that sort of weakness under the circumstances?


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I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

mchristian on November 21, 2010 at 8:56 PM

I do hope,that its not North Korea,who might
Vapourize the planet first,before the idiot in
the well crawls out from an Iranian water hole!!

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:01 PM

Given the new bunker-buster bombs and over-the-horizon missiles we can throw around, it’s pretty plain NK wants not only the U.S. to see this but the world at large. Any nation with access to Google Maps could find this.

Our intel agencies have failed miserably on several occasions recently (such as finding the huge stocks of WMD’s that Bush II pushed as evidence for invasion) but nuclear facilities built in the open are darn hard to miss. I think they’re (wisely) waiting to see just what the Norks are up to with their shiny new plant before trying anything.

Dark-Star on November 21, 2010 at 9:03 PM

If you are shocked by this you are stupid.

just sayin’

RealMc on November 21, 2010 at 9:04 PM

What’s Obama’s move now?

Weakening USA some more.

the_nile on November 21, 2010 at 9:07 PM

The good news is they’re using Siemens equipment.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on November 21, 2010 at 9:08 PM

Ahn-Nyeong Hah-Seh-Yo!

I, for one, welcome our new communist Korean overlords!

Dorvillian on November 21, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Send them a reset button.

Problem solved. Take the rest of the week off.

Red Cloud on November 21, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Well,Seoul claims that Obama only talks,
and his Big Stick is MIA,and,I can only
imagine what NK really thinks of Hopey
Chamberlain!!
==============
Obama delivers only hot air

By Donald Kirk

SEOUL – Theodore Roosevelt, a great American president with a clearly imperialist agenda, uttered one of the most famous lines in US history in 1901 when he advised a crowd, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. These days, US President Barack Obama seems to have gotten that aphorism reversed.

He speaks a lot but doesn’t seem to be carrying a big stick.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Asian_Economy/LK16Dk01.html

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:11 PM

Another example of how weak Obambi is viewed by the world. This is really sad and dangerous.

bluemarlin on November 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Could someone explain to me why Stuxnet can’t be defeated by simply replacing the software entirely?

sharrukin on November 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

The people who are “shocked” are the same ones telling us that was an airplane CONTRAIL off the coast of California.

SouthernGent on November 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

evaded strict new United Nations Security Council sanctions

Bwahaha. Yes, they must be evil geniuses to evade a STRICT UN sanction.

Don’t worry, if we pass START, then they might stop making weapons as a sign of goodwill.

reaganaut on November 21, 2010 at 9:13 PM

Satellite photo of Reactor site

US angered by N Korea nuclear claim

US accuses Pyongyang of flouting international sanctions and seeking to destabilise region amid claims of a new reactor.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/11/20101121231150936863.html

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Bush PBHO has been so obsessed with killing innocent brown people in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq that North Korea expanded their nuclear capabilities without notice.

Bishop on November 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

The people who are “shocked” are the same ones telling us that was an airplane CONTRAIL off the coast of California.

SouthernGent on November 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

Makes you wonder if the two are connected, doesn’t it? Demonstrations of nuclear power at home and abroad.

Dark-Star on November 21, 2010 at 9:18 PM

NKorea showed US scientist new nuclear plant: report

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NKorea_showed_US_scientist_new_nuclear_plant_report_999.html
===============================

Mullen Calls North Korea’s Actions ‘Very Dangerous’
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/dprk/2010/dprk-101121-afps01.htm

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:18 PM

START power.

rogerb on November 21, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Makes me wish we had orbital kinetic energy weapons.

mad scientist on November 21, 2010 at 9:20 PM

Three facts that drive this in one direction:
1. North Korea is an economic sinkhole! They’re so boneheaded stupid when it comes to growing anything even remotely resembling economic wealth, they can’t even steal their next meal much less buy it.
2. North Korea is surrounded by the richest countries on Planet Earth
And;
3. They showed us their stuff long before it could produce even the beginning stages of building a serious threat to anybody.
These three facts lead me to believe that the North Korean asylum inmates are still playing the old “Rattle the Bars Loud Enough and the Guards Will Pay you to Sit Down” game that they’ve made a career out of for 50 years. They want to be bought off!
They want everybody with money to believe that they’ll sell the stuff to those madmen in Iran if we don’t buy it first. Quick, send Hilary with money!!!!

Lew on November 21, 2010 at 9:21 PM

New regime – same as the old one.

OldEnglish on November 21, 2010 at 9:21 PM

“North Korea…Iran….Iraq…States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

One down, two to go.

thebrokenrattle on November 21, 2010 at 9:22 PM

Exit question: What’s Obama’s move now? Back to the bargaining table to discuss foreign aid, etc, in exchange for denuclearization, or can he simply not afford to show that sort of weakness under the circumstances?
=================================================
I think in less than two years,Obama has killed off his
own credibility!

Superior Fire P,er Smart Power strikes again!!

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:24 PM

That is an Aspirin Factory.

portlandon on November 21, 2010 at 9:25 PM

Three facts that drive this in one direction:
1. North Korea is an economic sinkhole! They’re so boneheaded stupid when it comes to growing anything even remotely resembling economic wealth, they can’t even steal their next meal much less buy it.
2. North Korea is surrounded by the richest countries on Planet Earth
And;
3. They showed us their stuff long before it could produce even the beginning stages of building a serious threat to anybody.
These three facts lead me to believe that the North Korean asylum inmates are still playing the old “Rattle the Bars Loud Enough and the Guards Will Pay you to Sit Down” game that they’ve made a career out of for 50 years. They want to be bought off!
They want everybody with money to believe that they’ll sell the stuff to those madmen in Iran if we don’t buy it first. Quick, send Hilary with money!!!!

Lew on November 21, 2010 at 9:21 PM

Oh yeah. The North Korean people are eating tree bark and rocks at this point.

Heck of a job Barry!

gary4205 on November 21, 2010 at 9:26 PM

That is an Aspirin Factory.

portlandon on November 21, 2010 at 9:25 PM

Baby formula!

gary4205 on November 21, 2010 at 9:29 PM

Unexpected?

Fallon on November 21, 2010 at 9:33 PM

first, that’s a very nice summary with all the links AP, well done.

second, i wonder where Hugo is in all this….let’s hope that in a couple of years we don’t find a bunch of centrifuges whiring away south of Caracas

r keller on November 21, 2010 at 9:33 PM

We have already payed them to stop their nuclear program. We should now obliterate their nuclear program.

Too bad it wont happen at least until after ObaMao is out of office.

Slowburn on November 21, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Exit question: What’s Obama’s move now?

Probably a three iron and a bucket of balls.

Dusty on November 21, 2010 at 9:35 PM

That is an Aspirin Factory.

portlandon on November 21, 2010 at 9:25 PM
==============
Baby formula!
gary4205 on November 21, 2010 at 9:29 PM
============

gary4205:

Or,in the case of Bill Clinton,where the Chinese Embassy
was accidently taken out in Belgrade!!
==============================================

US bombing of the People’s Republic of China embassy in Belgrade

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_bombing_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China_embassy_in_Belgrade

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Just wait until Junior takes the helm and wants to try out the new toys! Oh goody!

Flyboy on November 21, 2010 at 9:37 PM

No surprise whatever.

No wonder the world loves Obama. He’s the weakling of them all and the world can dance on his live body. He’ll do exactly nada.

Who helps N. Korea? Iran and China.

Schadenfreude on November 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

second, i wonder where Hugo is in all this….let’s hope that in a couple of years we don’t find a bunch of centrifuges whiring away south of Caracas

r keller on November 21, 2010 at 9:33 PM

r keller:
===========

Obama Accepts Venezuelan Nuclear Power Project
Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

President Obama yesterday declined to take issue with Venezuela’s pursuit of a civilian nuclear power capability, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Oct. 18; Agence France-Presse/Google News, Oct. 20).

Russia is expected to construct two 1,200-megawatt power reactors at a facility in the South American nation, the BBC reported (BBC News, Oct. 19).

“We have no incentive nor interest in increasing friction between Venezuela and the U.S., but we do think Venezuela needs to act responsibly,” AFP quoted the U.S. president as saying.

http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20101020_9621.php

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

All Bright has been proven to be the fool she always was.

Schadenfreude on November 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

Obama is eager to show international weakness at all times.

GaltBlvnAtty on November 21, 2010 at 9:42 PM

Well, not to worry. Iran and Pakistan will nuke the western hemisphere and N. Korea will nuke the eastern and in the process wipe themselves out along with the rest of us and many, many problems will be immediately solved.

jeanie on November 21, 2010 at 9:43 PM

should put to an end the idea of us closing our base in South korea

jp on November 21, 2010 at 9:44 PM

Who helps N. Korea? Iran and China.

Schadenfreude on November 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM

Schadenfreude:)
=====================================================
North Korea: Embracing the dragon
By Aidan Foster-Carter

Over a month ago, in an article in these columns, I suggested a number of reasons why North Korea may well become a quasi-satellite of China. [1]

Well, it’s happening even faster than I expected. In all the excitement about Kim Jong-eun’s coming-out for a second time, at the 65th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on October 10, we risk missing another key aspect of that big Pyongyang parade.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/LJ28Dg01.html

canopfor on November 21, 2010 at 9:46 PM

Somebody’s going to light off a nuke and we’ll have a strongly worded memo in response.

Somebody else will light off a nuke and we might have economic sanctions for them so as not to offend the sensibilities of other cultures.

Somebody else will become president and THEN we’ll wipe the offending countries off the face of Earth.

Vote Republican for the rest of your life to avoid this scenario.

Mojave Mark on November 21, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Don’t worry. They say Jeb Il Jong is the smart one.

BL@KBIRD on November 21, 2010 at 9:56 PM

Exit question: What’s Obama’s move now?

Apologizing?

Left Coast Right Mind on November 21, 2010 at 10:00 PM

<blockquoteVote Republican for the rest of your life to avoid this scenario.

Mojave Mark on November 21, 2010 at 9:55 PM

unless the republicans go nutter, and we are talking Ron Paul here who make Obama look strong in comparison

jp on November 21, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Bishop on November 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Did you get a deer? Figured you were off hunting.

Bruno Strozek on November 21, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Speaking of Chavez, he of nuclear ambitions: http://twitter.com/markknoller/status/6083182218715137

Oh, that ObaMao is such a kidder.

onlineanalyst on November 21, 2010 at 10:03 PM

The people who are “shocked” are the same ones telling us that was an airplane CONTRAIL off the coast of California.

SouthernGent on November 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM

No, I’m not shocked.

FloatingRock on November 21, 2010 at 10:17 PM

I would not be surprised if Iran has leased a facility in North Korea for nuclear research. I would also not be surprised to learn they have done the same in Venezuela.

They can do it because they know fully well that we aren’t going to do anything about it. We are going to throw words around and threaten sanctions (which have never in the history of mankind ever worked short of a complete and total siege where the entire country is surrounded and cut off) but we are not going to take any direct action.

Watch. We will gnash our teeth and wring our hands but not actually do a darned thing about it.

crosspatch on November 21, 2010 at 10:31 PM

Oh, that ObaMao is such a kidder.

onlineanalyst on November 21, 2010 at 10:03 PM

yeah, O has an odd sense of humor. kinda like you’re joking around with your lefty drinking buddies…or jon stewart about how redneck everyone is

r keller on November 21, 2010 at 10:36 PM

What’s the surprise? Every time Kim burps, we rush to pat him on the back.

Quit sending them food and fuel!

GarandFan on November 21, 2010 at 10:38 PM

Speak in monotone and carry a big teleprompter.

reaganaut on November 21, 2010 at 10:45 PM

If you look very close at the small print on every brick and technology in the building it has the normal Made in China label. Instead of sending rice and oil they build a enrichment facility. It was a house warming and welcome to the party gift to Kim Jong-un. Just what every third generation communist monarchy needs, a uranium enrichment facility.

And it was a Airplane that was at the same location the very next day and if you look tomorrow it should be there again.

tjexcite on November 21, 2010 at 10:52 PM

If North Korea is getting outside help what do they trade in exchange for that help? It’s not like NK is one of the world’s great exporters.

Who does North Korea trade with?

Skandia Recluse on November 21, 2010 at 10:55 PM

If North Korea is getting outside help what do they trade in exchange for that help?

Iran: Hey, Kimmie, tell you what. Let us build a nuclear facility in your country and we will pay you with oil.
NorK: Sounds like a deal!

Iran moves important nuclear research facilities out of the range of Israel and to a place the US won’t attack for fear of pissing China off. Both parties win.

crosspatch on November 21, 2010 at 11:01 PM

If you have read any history at all you would know that Intelligence always fails.

The history of the world is a story of missed chances and misdirected actions.

One thing to remember is that first reports are always wrong. Another is that the second and succeeding reports are often based on the first and are usually wrong also.

In a closed totalitarian society like North Korea you will see only what they want shown. An impossibility in a free society.

So, the scientist was shown what the Norks wanted him to see. But, did he see what he thought he saw?

Another truth is that American suck at Intelligence. We’re always looking for things we expect instead of evaluating what is actually known.

schmuck281 on November 22, 2010 at 12:38 AM

The “Smell The Glove” Gambit.

If they conduct another test, our hand has been forced. Precisely because of the weak position of the President.

juanito on November 22, 2010 at 12:38 AM

It’s okay, since Newsweek declares Obama is “god of all things”

Right?

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-spokane/newsweek-cover-depicts-president-obama-as-god-of-all-things

jdawg on November 22, 2010 at 1:19 AM

Is there a big tag on all this nuke equipment that says “Paid for and used by Iran”?

albill on November 22, 2010 at 6:11 AM

Let’s not forget that Chavez is trying to forge nuclear ties with the NOrks too. This “smart power” policy of ‘managed decline’ is working out splendidly, isn’t it Barry?

P.S. Isn’t this how Albright wanted the world to be? Where our power was redistributed to make it fairer?

Buy Danish on November 22, 2010 at 7:10 AM

Ruh roh, NorKs may be up to no good. Send the UN a sternly worded letter. Or send John Kerry to engage them in dialogue. He’ll fix it.

Let’s not forget that Chavez …
Buy Danish on November 22, 2010 at 7:10 AM

That’s the other shoe to drop, nukes in Central/South America. Coming any day now, IMO.

petefrt on November 22, 2010 at 7:29 AM

BTW, sorta OT, but if you haven’t been watching it, I highly recommend the Brit Hume series on conservatism in America. Looking back at Jimmy Carter’s election and the “neo-cons” who defected to Reagan is just one reason why this is a terrific history lesson – and a great contrast in what works and what doesn’t.

Buy Danish on November 22, 2010 at 8:07 AM

That’s the other shoe to drop, nukes in Central/South America. Coming any day now, IMO.

petefrt on November 22, 2010 at 7:29 AM

This is the most serious concern, and for one reason:

Castro said a lot of things, made a lot of threats. Chavez bought it hook, line and sinker. Fidel was posturing; Hugo is a freak.

BobMbx on November 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM

How did an economic basket case like North Korea come up with a plant like that, complete with modern control facility, so quickly? My hypothesis is that Iran, not wanting inspectors to find their main enrichment plant, built it in North Korea. That way, Pyongyang gets modern technology, shares in the enriched uranium, and is likely paid well. Iran gets enriched uranium, missile technology and an a centrifuge plant that can’t be tied to them.

NNtrancer on November 22, 2010 at 2:40 PM