North Korean Plutonium Production

David Albright, "North Korean Plutonium Production," Science & Global Security, 5, no. 1, (1994): 63-87.
In 1992, as part of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea declared that it had earlier separated abut 100 grams of plutonium from damaged fuel rods removed from a 25 megawatt-thermal (MWt) gas-graphite reactor at Yongbyon. The plutonium was separated at the nearby Radiochemical Laboratory. Separated plutonium is the raw ingredient for making nuclear weapons, but 100 grams is too little to make a crude bomb. Following its inspections of North Korea's facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that North Korea had separated more plutonium than it had declared to the Agency. However, the IAEA could not tell if the discrepancy was in grams or kilograms. Based on information gathered by intelligence agencies and IAEA inspections, North Korea may have already separated 6 to 13 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, enough for one or perhaps two nuclear weapons. In spring 1994, North Korea unloaded the 25 MWt reactor. Our best estimate of the amount of plutonium in this spent fuel is 25±8 kilograms, depending on how the reactor was run and how long the fuel was irradiated. If separated, this amount would be enough for four or five nuclear weapons. As of early October, however, North Korea has kept its June pledge to the U.S. not to separate this plutonium or refuel its reactor. North Korea is building two more gas-graphite reactors. If completed, these reactors would increase North Korea's capability to make weapons-grade plutonium production by more than tenfold. Because of the danger posed by North Korea's plutonium program, the United States wants North Korea to close its plutonium separation plant and abandon its gas-graphite reactors in exchange for the supply of two light-water reactors. These reactors are more proliferation-resistant than gas-graphite reactors and their associated plutonium separation plant.

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