Chilling satellite snaps appear to show North Korea ramping up nuclear materials

Chilling satellite images from a North Korean uranium mine appear to reveal that the rogue nation is significantly ramping up its production of nuclear materials.

The snaps from the Pyongsan mine have been analysed by experts at Stanford University who have warned that Kim Jong-un could still expand his operations further.

Uranium mined from Pyongsan can be used in both nuclear power reactors and weapons.

The research, published in the Science and Global Security journal last month, uses satellite imagery and machine learning software to detect natural land features and non-natural features, categorised as "other".

In this instance "other" is waste from the mine, indicating how much activity is occurring there.

Sulgiye Park, lead author of the paper, wrote: "A reduction of vegetation, including forests and grasslands, by 20% from 2017 to 2020, is concurrent to an almost four times increase in 'others' is likely a result of mine and wastes expansion over time."

The timing of the change is particularly interesting as it would suggest that North Korea was increasing uranium mining all while Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump were in talks over denuclearising the peninsula.

Others snaps analysed by the researchers showed increased activity at the nearby Pyongsan uranium concentrate plant where uranium storage containers are built.

Even more terrifying is the fact that, according to Park, the activity at the plant was well below capacity meaning that North Korea could scale up production even more.

Park's future research will use the same method to analyse the use of rail cars to reveal what sort of materials are coming in and out of Pyongsan.

Dan Soller, a senior adviser at geospatial intelligence company Orbital Insight which helped with the study, reassuring stressed that increased uranium mining doesn't necessarily mean increased nuclear weapons production.

Instead, he reckons that North Korea may just be hoping that the West makes that assumption.

He explained: "With the case of developing yellowcake [uranium] here, they want to continue that and make it look larger than it actually is, just to send the message that they are still pursuing their interests in order to gain concessions."

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