Go to contents

U.S. reconnaissance satellite capable of detecting heat from nuclear facility

U.S. reconnaissance satellite capable of detecting heat from nuclear facility

Posted March. 02, 2019 07:36,   

Updated March. 02, 2019 07:36


U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to have mentioned in detail information regarding North Korea’s veiled nuclear facilities, collected by the U.S. intelligence authorities, at the Hanoi summit. Speculation is that he might have presented a “smoking gun,” which the North finds hard to deny, along with the location, size, operation period, and status of the facilities.

“I think they (North Korea) were surprised we knew,” Trump said in a press briefing after the summit. An intelligence official floated a possibility that Trump might have brought up uranium-enrichment facilities that the regime disguised as for civil use, as well as evidence of nuclear production, production estimates, routes through which nuclear materials are moved, and the location of storage.

Unlike the Yongbyon nuclear complex that has a reactor and reprocessing facilities all in one site, a uranium-enrichment facility doesn’t require a large plot of land, making it easy to be covered up. However, unless concealed deep underground, it would not be able to avoid being located by the South Korea-U.S. reconnaissance satellites. The satellite’s advanced IR camera is capable of detecting the heat generated by an enrichment facility while in operation at an altitude of hundreds of kilometers. The Kangson facility, which looks like an ordinary plant on the surface, was also spotted by the U.S. satellite reportedly because of the heat generated from the roof.

In addition, the satellite’s ultra-high resolution optical camera can identify the types of vehicles and cargo, and people coming in and out of facilities day and night. Raw materials for uranium enrichment and post-enrichment waste can be also tracked when they are carried into and taken out of the site.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com