2003 March 15 Saturday
North Korean Uranium Enrichment Program Fairly Advanced

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that North Korea's uranium enrichment program is only months behind their plutonium program.

But Kelly said: "The element of speed doesn't only apply to the plutonium" program, which officials judge could produce bomb-grade plutonium six months after the North restarts a reprocessing facility it is now preparing to revive.

"The enriched uranium issue, which some have assumed is somewhere off in the fog of the distant future, is not," Kelly said. "It is only probably a matter of months, not years, behind the plutonium" program, he added.

Keep in mind that it is easier to construct a nuclear bomb from uranium than it is from plutonium. Not coincidentally, Iran's nuclear weapons program is relying on the construction of thousands of uranium enrichment devices.

This mention by Henry Sokolski indicates that it is likely that North Korea and Iran are cooperating in their uranium enrichment programs.

Fear. Pyongyang may make more nuclear weapons. It may export its nuclear capabilities (North Koreans recently were sighted at Iran's uranium-enrichment plants). It may fire nuclear-capable rockets over its neighbors, or devise new ways to provoke the U.S.

The North Korean uranium enrichment program is not a response to the harder line that the Bush Administration has taken toward North Korea. US intelligence found indications of an active North Korean uranium enrichment program during the Clinton Administration.

In 1999, U.S. intelligence agencies detected efforts by a North Korean trading company to purchase enrichment technology from a Japanese manufacturer.

There have been indications for 5 years of a on-going covert North Korean nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has been working covertly to develop an enrichment capability for nuclear weapons for at least five years and has used technology obtained from Pakistan and other nations, according to U.S. officials.

By August 2002 the evidence became overwhelming.

The United States received evidence of uranium enrichment efforts in North Korea as early as two years ago, but only recently decided to confront Pyongyang there about it, sources in the US and Asia say.

At first the evidence was faint and circumstantial. But it accumulated to the point that by August this year US officials felt the case was compelling and was grounds for cutting off talks aimed at improving relations with the isolated state.

On October 4, 2002 James Kelly confronted the North Koreans in a meeting in Pyongyang with the US evidence for the uranium enrichment program and the North Koreans admitted to it.

There are about a half dozen suspected uranium enrichment sites. But keep in mind that media reports cite intelligence sources which claim there are doubts about whether all the uranium enrichment sites are known to US intelligence. This is important because it is not possible to destroy a facility with an air strike if we do not know where that facility is located.

The Monterrey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies has more maps and information sources about North Korean nuclear weapons development programs.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 15 10:02 AM  Korea


Comments
Dan Shiells said at April 17, 2003 7:56 PM:

In all the articles on enrichment of U by centrifuges, the number of stages is never provided. Wouldn't this item plus the size of the facility required for them be a critical parameter. I am referring to the use of this process to enrich to, say 3% versus 93%, or WGU. Is there a facility size that would do 3%, but take forever for 93%?
Or are all centrifuge facilities capable of both levels?
Specifically, how can North Korea's desire to enrich their own yellow cake to supply reloads for their hoped for LWR's be limited to low enrichment?
Dan Shiells

Randall Parker said at April 17, 2003 8:20 PM:

Dan, they have no need to enrich their own uranium for peaceful purposes because their LWR fuel will be supplied by other countries.

Dan Shiells said at June 18, 2003 7:55 PM:

Randall
Your response covers the first core loading. If NK has their own U mines, as they do, why wouldn't they want to develop a complete fuel cycle?
Just found your reply ten minutes ago! Thank you.
Dan Shiells

Dan Shiells said at June 18, 2003 7:55 PM:

Randall
Your response covers the first core loading. If NK has their own U mines, as they do, why wouldn't they want to develop a complete fuel cycle?
Just found your reply ten minutes ago! Thank you.
Dan Shiells

Randall Parker said at June 18, 2003 9:29 PM:

Dan. I don't understand the purpose of your question. They want nuclear reactors in order to make nuclear weapons. They want uranium enrichment to make nuclear weapons. Yes, they want to develop the ability to do all the steps. The steps are useful for the manufacturing of nukes and they can pretend to care about just making nuclear power.

However, they have dropped all pretenses of just wanting to make energy from nuclear materials. They have now said repeatedly that they want to develop nuclear weapons and have claimed to already have done so.

We can not limit them at all because the location(s) of their uranium enrichment equipment is unknown to us.

Jack Blasingame said at May 29, 2004 9:04 PM:

Dan: Are you my former supervisor at Bechtel? Jack

Jack Blasingame said at May 29, 2004 9:04 PM:

Dan: Are you my former supervisor at Bechtel? Jack

Jack Blasingame said at May 29, 2004 9:04 PM:

Dan: Are you my former supervisor at Bechtel? Jack

Jack Blasingame said at May 29, 2004 9:05 PM:

Dan: Are you my former supervisor at Bechtel? Jack


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