Radiochemistry Laboratory

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Last Updated: June 15, 2012
Other Name: 방사화학실험소; Radiochemistry Lab (방사화학연구소); December Enterprise (12월기업소); Yongbyon Reprocessing Facility (영변재처리시설); Yongbyon Fuel Reprocessing Factory; Radiochemical Laboratory; Plutonium Reprocessing Factory (플루토늄 재처리공장)
Location: Bungang-jigu (분강지구), Yongbyon-gun (영변군), North Pyeongan Province (평안북도), North Korea
Subordinate To: Radiochemistry Research Institute (방사화학연구소), Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center (영변원자력연구센터), the 5th Machine Industry Bureau (5기계공업총국), Korean Workers Party (조선노동당)
Size: A six-story building, approximately 180 meters in length and 20 meters in width
Facility Status: Unfinished

Also known as the "December Enterprise," construction of the Radiochemistry Laboratory probably began in 1985, and by end of 1993, shortly before the facility was frozen according to the Agreed Framework, 80% of the construction and 70% of equipment installation was completed. [1] When North Korea submitted its initial declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in May 1992, it stated that this facility was for training nuclear specialists in separating plutonium and handling nuclear waste. However, during inspections later the same month, the IAEA concluded it to be a reprocessing facility. [2]

The Laboratory was designed to use the "chop-leach" PUREX process that is used in many commercial and military reprocessing facilities around the world. [3] It has two parallel plutonium processing lines, where the first line was completed in 1992, [4] and the second line was in the process of being installed in 1993. [5] The building has six reprocessing cells on the ground level and three sampling cells on an upper level. [6] The end of the building has provisions for receiving spent fuel. At least two underground pipes connect the laboratory to the so-called "Building 500" — a name given by the Central Intelligence Agency — which is a suspected liquid and solid waste storage facility. [7]

North Korea claimed to have extracted 90-100g of plutonium from damaged fuel rods from the 5 MWe reactor in March 1990. [8] It is suspected that radioactive waste and spent uranium from this and other reprocessing campaigns carried out here during 1989 to 1991 were pumped to Building 500 through the above mentioned pipes. [9]

The completed Radiochemistry Laboratory — originally targeted for 1996 completion — could have been capable of reprocessing 100-300 tons of Magnox spent fuel and extracting 200kg of plutonium annually. [10]

Sources:
[1] Lee Choon-geun, "북한 핵문제의 과학기술적 이해 [Understanding North Korea's Nuclear Issue Scientifically],” 2003-09, Science & Technology Institute (South Korea), 2003, stepi.re.kr.
[2] Hong Yun O, " 핵시설 18곳에 일력 3000명 [3,000 Workers at 18 Nuclear Facilities]," Hanguk Daily, 24 October 1994, http://news.hankooki.com.
[3] David Albright and Kevin O'Neill, eds., Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle (Washington, D.C.: Institute For Science and International Security, 2000).
[4] Lee Choon-geun, "북한 핵문제의 과학기술적 이해 [Understanding North Korea's Nuclear Issue Scientifically],” 2003-09, Science & Technology Institute (South Korea), 2003, stepi.re.kr.
[5] Hong Yun O, " 핵시설 18곳에 일력 3000명 [3,000 Workers at 18 Nuclear Facilities]," Hanguk Daily, 24 October 1994, http://news.hankooki.com.
[6] David Albright, "Overview of North Korea's Nuclear Fuel-Cycle Facilities in the Early 1990s," in David Albright and Kevin O'Neill, eds., Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle (Washington, D.C.: Institute For Science And International Security, 2000), p. 150.
[7] Bermudez, Jr., Joseph S., "Exposing North Korea's Secret Nuclear Infrastructure – Part Two,” Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 11, Is. 8, 1 August 1999.
[8] Bermudez, Jr., Joseph S., "Exposing North Korea's Secret Nuclear Infrastructure - Part Two,” Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 11, Is. 8, 1 August 1999.
[9] Michael May, ed., "Verifying the Agreed Framework," The Center for Global Security Research Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and The Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, April 2001, p. 68, http://cisac.stanford.edu.
[10] Bermudez, Jr., Joseph S., "Exposing North Korea's Secret Nuclear Infrastructure - Part Two,” Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 11, Is. 8, 1 August 1999.

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