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CRS – North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues. Mary Beth Nikitin Specialist in Nonproliferation, April 3, 2013

  • “This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. North Korea’s plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon has been shuttered since its cooling tower was destroyed under international agreement in June 2008. However, on April 1, 2013, North Korea said it would resume operation of its plutonium production reactor. Experts estimate it will take approximately six months to restart. This would provide North Korea with approximately one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year.”
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