Waste from N.Korean Uranium Factories 'Could Seep into Sea'

  • By Cho Yi-jun, Yang Seung-sik

    August 19, 2019 13:16

    U.S. experts have raised concerns that radioactive waste from North Korean uranium factories in North Hwanghae Province could be flowing into the West Sea.

    North Korea's uranium mines are concentrated in Pyongsan, which is therefore believed to have refining and enrichment facilities too. There are fears that highly enriched radioactive waste from those facilities could flow into the Ryesong River in the city and eventually into the West Sea and toward Yeonpyeong and Ganghwa islands.

    Radio Free Asia said Jacob Bogle, a civilian expert, analyzed satellite photos and said black material seen in images polluting coastlines along the uranium mines is waste from the uranium factory in Pyongsan.

    A satellite photo shows a uranium mine and factory straddling the Ryesong River and a reservoir which appears to be a collection point for waste and discharged water. Bogle said he "can identify that the pipe taking waste materials to the open reservoir has leaks and has been spilling toxic water into the Ryesong's tributary."

    Choi Han-kwon, a nuclear expert, told RFA that he fears radioactive pollution if the waste came from the enrichment stage. Choi added that drinking water even slightly polluted by radioactive waste can cause permanent damage to humans.

    This satellite image posted by Radio Free Asia shows a uranium factory (top circle), waste pipe (middle) and reservoir in Pyongsan, North Hwanghae Province.

    The Pyongsan factory was one of the top five nuclear facilities U.S. President Donald Trump pointed out to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit in Hanoi in February of this year.

    North Korea continues to produce highly enriched uranium and has been using them to manufacture nuclear weapons.

    The website 38 North at Johns Hopkins University analyzed satellite photos from last November and said the amount of waste piled up next to the uranium mines has increased, suggesting uranium mining and refining continue.

    Intelligence officials here, however, said the black liquid could be simple sewage. But military insiders are nonetheless concerned.

    One military source said, "Considering the North's rudimentary waste-processing facilities, there is a chance that uranium waste flowed into the nearby river. It tends to pile up further downstream, and the Ryesong River flows into waters near Yeonpyong and Ganghwa islands," which could contaminate crabs and fish caught around the islands.

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