Weapon experts have revealed that North Korea’s plan to enhance their uranium-enrichment facilities and their already exiting plutonium resources can provide for the manufacture of over 20 nuclear bombs. North Korea recently conducted a nuclear test to which the US responded by having bomber jets fly over South Korea, in solidarity. The North considered this a hostile move and accused the US of “pushing them to the point of explosion.”
The nuclear test conducted last week was largest so far and was the fifth test in recent years. Since the North has evaded United Nations sanctions for over a decade, experts say that their uranium-enrichment program has become independent. This could help them produce over 6 nuclear bombs a year. The isolated country has a large reserve of uranium resources and the South claims that another nuclear test might be coming soon.
Siegfried Hecker, an expert on the North’s Nuclear Program, visited the main facility in Yongbyon in 2010. He claims that the North has expanded their nuclear projects greatly and could produce over 150kg of highly enriched uranium per year. Hecker also stated that the North has around 54kg of plutonium, which is enough to make 20 nuclear bombs by the end of this year.
Hecker and Jeffrey Lewis, from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, both claim that the nuclear program by the North is a wild card that they can use at any time. They state that enriched-uranium is being developed in 1 or 2 sites and that the Yongbyon reactor is the main source of the plutonium. Thanks to the enriched uranium and easily available plutonium, nothing can stop North Korea from creating nuclear bombs with relative ease.
As far as the US knows, the uranium-enrichment program has been in place since 2003. The facility was reportedly built with the help of Pakistan, who’s former President Musharraf confessed in his memoirs that A.Q Khan had transferred 2 dozen centrifuges to the North along with expertise in 1999. North Korea has made light of the situation by claiming that the Yongbyon plant is simply being used to create fuel for a light water reactor instead. Many fear that despite the latest UN sanctions, the North already has an independent program in place and muck like Iran, can work around the sanctions.