Published on March 5, 2008
Slide1: Technical summary of DPRK nuclear program Siegfried S. Hecker Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation 2005 Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference, Washington, D.C. November 8, 2005 Slide2: Visits to Pyongyang: S.S. Hecker and Prof. J.W. Lewis Jan. 6-10, 2004 and Aug. 23-27, 2005 and Yongbyon, Jan. 6-10, 2004 North Korea has the raw materials and nuclear infrastructure for the full plutonium nuclear fuel cycle Slide3: Key nuclear issues as of January 2004 visit What is the status of the nuclear reactors? 5 MWe (previously operating – generates ~6 kg Pu/year) 50 MWe – under construction (56 kg Pu/year) 200 MWe – under construction (220 kg Pu/year) What happened to the spent fuel rods from 5 MWe reactor? Placed in safe storage (25 – 30 kg Pu) with U.S. help Monitored by IEAE until December 2002 Does the DPRK have a uranium enrichment program? Does the DPRK have nuclear weapons? Slide4: Additional technical issues as of August 2005 What is the status of the nuclear reactors? 5 MWe - is it operating with a fresh core? (5 to 7 kg Pu/year) 50 MWe – has construction resumed? (~ 56 kg Pu/year) 200 MWe – future plans? (~ 220 kg Pu/year) What is status of fresh fuel fabrication? Reprocessing status? If reactor was refueled, what is status of spent fuel rods? How much additional plutonium was extracted? Status of DPRK uranium enrichment program? Status of DPRK nuclear weapons program? Slide5: Update on status of 5 MWe reactor in Yongbyon 5 MWe (25 MWth) graphite-moderated, gas-cooled indigenous reactor (uses natural uranium metallic fuel) (began operations in 1986) We were told by the director of the Yongbyon Nuclear Center that: The reactor operated from Feb. 2003 to end of March 2005 The reactor operated well at full power – 25 MWth The reactor was unloaded in April 2005 Prompted by concerns about fuel rods that were loaded in January 2003 and fabricated prior to Agreed Framework of 1994 and To extract the plutonium Fuel rods were found to be in good shape The reactor was reloaded and operations resumed in mid-June 2005 They are refurbishing the fuel fabrication facility to make more fuel because they loaded the last load made prior to 1994 Slide6: Update on status of 50 and 200 MWe reactors 50 MWe reactor in Yongbyon (construction was frozen in 1994) Ready to resume construction soon Redesign has been completed Construction workers preparing to return Some components will be retained, others replaced Only the containment vessel is inside reactor now Core was fabricated elsewhere in 1994 – it will be retained DPRK did not give us an estimated completion date Director implied a couple of years, rather than five or six Regulatory framework Start-up license from State Nuclear Regulatory Commission required before operations Self-regulated for operations Electricity will go into the grid 200 MWe reactor in Tacheon (construction also frozen in 1994) The are still analyzing the 200 MWe construction DPRK claims to have methods of recovering construction But, investment is bigger than starting anew Slide7: Plutonium reprocessing update We were told that: 8000 spent fuel rods were unloaded beginning in April 2005 Cooled ~ 3 months in spent-fuel pool Reprocessing to extract Pu began in late June Through-put increased by x 1.3 by technical improvements Director explained the mystery of the “second” line It is used as a back-up and spare Director said reprocessing almost finished in late August DPRK officials told Governor Richardson on Oct. 20 that they finished reprocessing and they were decontaminating the building As in 2003, the Pu was processed to metal U.S. estimates are 10 to 14 kg Pu metal could have been extracted during this campaign Slide8: Technical summary of Aug. 2005 visit 5 MWe reactor Operated for 26 mo., unloaded, reloaded – operating well at full power (can run “indefinitely”). Reprocessing Throughput improved by x1.3; reprocessing of 8000 fuel rods almost complete. Will have extracted 10 to 14 kg plutonium (Pu) [U.S. estimate]. Reactor construction Redesign of 50 MWe complete. Construction workers preparing to restart construction. 200 MWe still under study. Would cost more to complete than to start over. Radioisotopes Run Soviet-supplied IRT research reactor occasionally to produce I-131 for thyroid cancer therapy. Limited by not having received fresh fuel since Soviet times. DPRK is moving full-speed ahead with nuclear weapons program Slide9: Rough estimate of DPRK nuclear status as of Nov. 2005 Plutonium < 1994 (IRT & 5 MWe) ~ 8.4 kg (1+ weapons worth) 2003 (5 MWe) ~ 25 kg (4-6 weapons worth) 2005 (5 MWe) ~10-14 kg (~ 2 weapons worth) Nov. 2005. Highly likely to have 43 10 kg of separated plutonium > 2005 MWe capacity ~ 5-7 kg/yr (1+ weapon worth/yr) Future 5 + 50 MWe ~ 60 kg/yr (~ 10 weapons worth/yr) Nuclear weapons We know very little. Given demonstrated technical capabilities, we must assume they have produced at least a few simple, primitive nuclear devices. No information on whether or not devices are missile capable. Uranium enrichment We know even less. Continued denial by Ministry of Foreign Affairs against overwhelming evidence that they have some level of uranium enrichment program. *Based on estimates by David Albright and Kevin O’Neill, editors, “Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle,” ISIS Reports (The Institute for Science and International Security), Washington, D.C., 2000 and Lewis/Hecker Jan. 2004 and Aug. 2005 visits.