Nuclear programs of North Korea actually began in the 80s of last century but kept developing unsteadily depending on the economic, politic situation and technical difficulties.
Sometimes Pyongyang "leverage" the negotiations to promote this program, especially when the United States was busy with the Middle East situation. One of North Korea’s leading nuclear facility warehouses is Yongbyon reactor.
Located about 90km from the capital Pyongyang, the Yongbyon reactor was built in 1963 with the help of the Soviet Union. With a capacity of 5mW, this is where Pyongyang recycling spent nuclear fuel to derive plutonium for atom bomb fabrication.
Cooling tower of the Yongbyon reactor had been destroyed by the DPRK on 27th August 2008. The move comes after Pyongyang handed a detailed report on its nuclear program to China, which hosted the talks on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. In response, US President George Bush announced the lifting of some sanctions against the DPRK. But then the nuclear negotiations went into deadlock and DPRK decided to continue operating Yongbyon back.
|A ballistic missile by North Korea. Photo: Reuters
According to a report by US intelligence, the capacity to recycle plutonium at Yongbyon facility was about 6 kg / year, after being re-launch in 2009, Pyongyang has about 24 to 42 kg of plutonium metal base on Yongbyon production, a portion of which was used for nuclear weapons built in the period 2006 to 2009.
In February 2016, in a report submitted to the US Senate, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said. "We discovered the DPRK had restarted its plutonium reactors in order to start using plutonium for these upcoming months."
Besides the Yongbyon reactor with plutonium fabrication, DPRK nuclear program also exists an auxiliary branch, which is the base of enriched uranium. Technically, unlike the light yet hard to produce plutonium, uranium enriched the weapons material to be easier to fabricate. The use of both nuclear materials is an inherently option for lots of country.
In fact, the US atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, used uranium-235 while the rest dropped on Nagasaki used plutonium. Nuclear weapons fabricating methods based on enriched uranium by separating uranium isotopes -235 required centrifuges and Pyongyang has sought to obtain such machines from one of US allied nation - Pakistan.
Pakistan has invested a lot to show its nuclear weapons program. Islamabad direction is to use enriched uranium as a raw material for a nuclear bomb. The top nuclear scientist of Pakistan's – PhD. Abdul Qadeer Khan had successfully gotten the centrifuge fabrication diagram from Urenco (Europe). Mr Khan then transferred centrifuges to Pyongyang in exchange for technology of ballistic missiles.
Based on the centrifuge which was transferred by Dr. Khan as well as the domestic auto manufacturing, North Korea is believed to possess a warehouse of enriched uranium which enough to conduct atomic bombs at any time.
Specifically, according to professor Siegfried Hecker, a lecturer at the University of Stanford, specialized on Security and International Cooperation, North Korea could produce about 150 kg of uranium enriched in one year. At the moment, Pyongyang has about 300-400kg material, enough to produce about 12-16 atomic bombs.
With nuclear fuel repositories including recycled plutonium and enriched uranium, Pyongyang has deploys 5 times the atomic weapons tests. The first test was conducted on 8-10-2006, 2nd attempt took place on 25-5-2009 and the 3rd attempt on12-2-2013.
Every single nuclear test of Pyongyang was experiencing an outcry from some neighboring countries due to the increase of destructive power. The latest test on September 9th could crash reach 20kt (equivalent to 20,000 tons of explosives) caused a strong earthquake of 5.3 magnitude at Punggye-ri test site.
Pyongyang is also believed to have sought to share nuclear technology with Syria. In 2007, Israeli opened an air raid as a base for the heavy water reactor in Syria with the help of Pyongyang to.
The search of DPRK for a "nuclear weapon" has been lasting for decades with several achievements. This is a setback in efforts to combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons internationally, but because of security needs, especially following the examples of Iraq and Libya, it is hard for Pyongyang to let go this strategic card .PSN