Geopolitical analysts at 38 North, a website that tracks developments along the 38th parallel that separates North and South Korea, published a new report that sheds light on a potentially dangerous situation in North Korea, one where recent rising floodwaters threatened a nuclear reactor site.
Satellite imagery from August 6-11 shows water levels along the Kuryong River may have damaged pump houses at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
Despite ongoing efforts to improve the embankment along the river against annual flooding, they failed to meet the challenge of this year’s rising waters, which reached the pump houses. More importantly, the flooding exposed how vulnerable the nuclear reactors’ cooling systems are to extreme weather events, in this case, for the potential for damage to the pumps and their power systems, or for clogging of piping systems that draw water from the river. – 38 North
The five-megawatt reactor at the nuclear facility didn’t appear to be operating at the time the images were taken. It’s been rumored this is the facility that the rogue country produces weapons-grade plutonium.
Satellite imagery taken earlier this week appears to show floodwaters didn’t breach any part of the Yongbyon facility’s Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), located downstream. There’s also an indication the water level has receded in recent days.
Partial coverage of the area from August 8 and 11 shows the waters have retreated, suggesting that the major facilities within the complex, such as the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), have been spared. -38 North
When comparing satellite imagery from August 6 versus July 22, it becomes clear the water level of the Kuryong River has risen dramatically alongside the nuclear complex.
Although the security wall around the reactor complex was not breached, the water had reached the two pump houses that service the reactors and completely submerged their respective bases. The overfall dam that was built to ensure a constant reservoir of water and is available for cooling the reactors was also fully underwater. -38 North
North Korea’s state media has stayed quiet on the subject. There’s no official report if the pump houses or piping were damaged. If so, this would present significant challenges for cooling the reactor.
In China, record flooding from unprecedented rainstorms has resulted in structural issues within the Three Gorges Dam. Beijing admitted weeks ago that the world’s largest hydroelectric gravity dam on the Yangtze River in Hubei province “deformed slightly.”