Event: Conference on Using Satellite Imagery to Monitor Nuclear Forces and Proliferators

This satellite imagery analysis from my conference briefing illustrates upgrade of Chinese mobile nuclear missile launch garrison at Qingyang (30°41’52.64″N, 117°53’36.25″E). Such analysis is becoming more important as the U.S. government is curtailing what it releases about Chinese (and Russian) nuclear forces. Click on image for large image version.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Earlier today we convened an exciting conference on use of commercials satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to monitor nuclear forces and proliferators around the world. I was fortunate to have two brilliant users of this technology with me on the panel:

  • Tamara Patton, a Graduate Research Assistant at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who described her pioneering work to use freeware to creating 3D images of uranium enrichment facilities and plutonium production reactors in Pakistan and North Korea. Her briefing is available here.
  • Matthew McKinzie, a Senior Scientists with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Nuclear Program and Lands and Wildlife Program, who has spearheaded non-governmental use of GIS technology since commercial satellite imagery first became widely available. His presentation is available here.
  • My presentation focused on using satellite imagery and Freedom of Information Act requests to monitor Chinese and Russian nuclear force developments, an effort that is becoming more important as the United States is decreasing its release of information about those countries. My briefing slides are here.

In all of the work profiled by these presentations, the analysts relied on the unique Google Earth and the generous contribution of high-resolution satellite imagery by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye.

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

One thought on “Event: Conference on Using Satellite Imagery to Monitor Nuclear Forces and Proliferators

  1. HK, do you have any idea why Chinese are planning to keep DF-5’s operational when more modern DF-31A is already in production?

    Is there any possibility that DF-31A’s will be placed in SILO’s at some point in the future?

    Reply: Let’s see how long it will last, but possible reasons might be that the DF-31A program is not yet robust enough to carry the full long-range ICBM mission. Another possibility is that if – and I repeat if – China ever decided it needed to deploy MRV or MIRV on an ICBM in response to a U.S. ballistic missile defense system, the DF-5 might be a better choice than the DF-31A. As for DF-31A is silos, I’d be surprised because the whole reason for the developing that expensive mobile system was because of the vulnerability of the silos to the U.S. Trident SLBM. HK

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