Just A Little Bit More Information

So what’s the status of the fresh fuel stored at Yongbyon, and the “process lines”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1865/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-magnox to make more? For that, we have SIGINT.

From “Dr. Sigfried (Sig) Hecker’s account of a February 2008 visit”:http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2008_rpt/dprk.pdf:

They have in storage less than a quarter of a reactor load of clad fuel rods. They also have in storage a full load of bare uranium fuel rods (our best estimate is 12,000) for the 50 MWe reactor. It appears that these can be used for the 5 MWe reactor, but may require some machining, and would have to be clad with magnesium alloy cladding. These operations would require the reconstitution of parts of the fuel fabrication facility, including the machine shop. Such actions would most likely take close to 1 year.


Fuel Fabrication Facility. The front end of fuel fabrication (Building 1) had been operating making uranium dioxide (UO2) from uranium ore concentrate right up to the time the facility was shut down on July 15, 2007. The back end was operational with seven conversion furnaces, two casting furnaces, and eight machining lathes. However, the middle part, the fluorination facility, had deteriorated so badly during the freeze (1994 to 2003) that the building has been abandoned (as we were shown in August 2007). However, the DPRK had recently completed alternate fluorination equipment (using dry rather than wet techniques) in one of the ancillary buildings. However, this was a makeshift operation that has limited throughput potential. It was not put into full operation by the time of the shutdown on July 15.

The disablement steps taken at the fuel fabrication facility focused on those buildings and equipment that were in reasonable working order. The removal of the three uranium dissolver tanks and the disassembly of the seven conversion furnaces (with thousands of refractory bricks) are serious disablement steps. The removal of the casting furnaces and the machining lathes also constitute significant steps. The DPRK has not been willing to take steps to render the fresh fuel in storage not usable for a reactor restart. These fuel rods could be bent, making it necessary to recast and remanufacture the rods to precise tolerances. Or, since the uranium metal content is substantial (close to 100 metric tons of natural uranium metal), the fresh fuel rods could be sold to one of the five parties, which could use the uranium as feed material for light-water reactor fuel. DPRK officials say that they await additional corresponding measures by the United States before they are willing to take actions on the fresh fuel rods. If the fresh fuel rods are bent, the DPRK would have to recast and remachine, which would add several months to a restart time. If the fresh fuel were sold, then the DPRK would have to restart the entire fuel fabrication facility and produce new uranium metal, which would add approximately a year to a restart time.

There are some “pictures”:http://iis-db.stanford.edu/evnts/5220/gallery/, too.

It’s been reported that “Hecker and colleagues may visit Yongbyon again soon”:http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090209_4835.php.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot about the “musical bonus”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmwlzwGMMwc. Silly me.

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