Erlangen 2018 – wissenschaftliches Programm
AGA 5.3: Vortrag
Donnerstag, 8. März 2018, 18:00–18:30, B 0.014
How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have? - Fissile material production estimates — •Matthias Englert — Institute for Applied Ecology - Öko-Institut e.V., Rheinstr. 95, 64295 Darmstadt
The question of how many weapons could North Korea possibly have depends on the amount of plutonium or highly enriched uranium North Korea has produced already and how much is used in one nuclear device. Much about its nuclear program is shrouded in secrecy and little reliable information is available, especially since the IAEA and international experts lost access to the fissile material production plants. This talk will give a summary of North Korean fissile material production capabilities based on estimates in the open literature and own calculations. Some detail is available about the plutonium production at the 5 MWe gas graphite reactor and the reprocessing plant at the Radiochemical Laboratory at Yongbyon.
After roughly 35 kg plutonium was produced in the 1990s and early 200s the reactor was restarted in 2013 but operated only intermittendly. North Korea also builds an experimental light water reactor with 100 MWth. In 2010 North Korea also revealed the existence of an uranium enrichment program and a seemingly operating 2000-centrifuge enrichment plant to US scientists. Estimating the separative work of the centrifuges based on information about technology transfers to and from North Korea it is possible to calculate a hypothetical production rate for Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). However, such estimates are highly uncertain as it is not known if a second plant exists and since when the revealed plant is operating and at which capacity level. Additionally, estimating uranium enrichment production rates does depend heavily on the assumption about the enrichment and depletion level, the cascade scheme, on the amount of raw material available and on the timescale. Together with the uncertainties about the North Korean weapon design and the amount of fissile material used per weapon, estimates vary considerably from 10 up to 60 nuclear weapons in the North Korean arsenal. Some consideration will be also given to the availability of other nuclear weapon relevant materials such as tritium, lithium-6, and deuterium.