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Bakcheon Underground Nuclear Facility

Last Modified: May 30, 2012
Other Name: 박천지하핵시설; Bakcheon Nuclear Facility; Bakcheon-gun Atomic Energy Research Institute; Pakchon Nuclear Facility
Location: Bakcheon-gun (박천군), North Pyeongan Province (평안북도), North Korea
Subordinate To: General Department of Atomic Energy (원자력총국), Cabinet (내각); and/or the 5th Machine Industry Bureau (5기계공업총), Korean Workers' Party (조선노동당)
Size: Unknown
Facility Status: Unknown

According to Ko Yeong Hwan, a senior North Koreans diplomat who defected in 1991, the nuclear research laboratory in Bakcheon-gun, North Pyeongan Province opened in the mid-1960s. Apparently, it was staffed with recent graduates of the nuclear physics program instituted in 1959 at Kim Il Sung University. He also stated that nuclear technology was obtained from Russia, Austria, France and then-East Germany.[1] The institute is now a branch of the Atomic Energy Research Institute (원자력연구소박천분소).

The area also has a uranium mine and a uranium milling facility, known as the April Industrial Enterprise (4월기업소), or the "Unjeon-gun April Industrial Enterprise (운전군4월기업소)." As such, there is a possibility for a uranium enrichment facility in the vicinity.[2] In October 2002, North Korea admitted that it possesses a program to enrich uranium, and the U.S. identified this facility as a possible site for the program.[3]

Sources:
[1] “북한, 박천에 지하핵시험실”/귀순 북한 고위외교관 고영환씨 회견 [Underground Nuclear Facility in Bakcheon, According to Defector],” Hanguk Ilbo, 14 September 1991, via: www.kinds.or.kr.
[2] Yang Nak-gyu, “북핵실험 5대 의혹 장소는 [5 Suspected North Korean Nuclear Test Sites],” Asian Economy, 14 April 2011, www.asiae.co.kr.
[3] "미국 북핵 개발 의심 시설 3곳 [U.S. Suspects 3 Locations for North Korean Nuclear Facility]," Yonhap News Agency, 19 October 2002, www.yonhap.co.kr.
 

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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