1 (July 29, 2003)

handle is hein.crs/crsmthabbmi0001 and id is 1 raw text is: 
                                                                 Order Code  RS21391
                                                                 Updated July 29, 2003

 CRS Report for Congress

               Received through the CRS Web

           North Korea's Nuclear Weapons:
                   How Soon an Arsenal?

                           Sharon  A. Squassoni
                      Specialist in National Defense
               Foreign Affairs, Defense  and Trade  Division


     In December 2002, North Korea ended the 8-year-old freeze on its nuclear program
 by expelling inspectors and reopening its plutonium production facilities. The CIA
 assessed that North Korea could produce 5-6 weapons by mid-2003, in addition to 1 or
 possibly 2 weapons it might already have. In April 2003, North Korean officials
 claimed they had completed reprocessing all 8000 spent fuel rods (containing enough
 plutonium for 5-6 weapons), a claim which few believed. Since then, however, there
 are indicators that some reprocessing has occurred. This report, which will be updated
 as warranted, describes North Korea's steps in producing plutonium nuclear weapons.


    In the early1980s, U.S. satellites tracked a growing indigenous nuclear program in
North Korea. North Korea's small reactor at Yongbyon (5MWe), capable of producing
about 6kg of plutonium per year, began operating in 1986.1 Later that year, U.S. satellites
detected high explosives testing and a new plant to separate plutonium (a necessary step
before turning the plutonium into metal for a warhead). In addition, the construction of
two larger reactors (50MWe at Yongbyon and 200MWe   at Taechon) added to the
mounting evidence of a serious, clandestine effort. Although North Korea had joined the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1985, nuclear safeguards inspections began first in
1992. Those inspections raised questions about how much plutonium North Korea had
produced covertly that still have not been resolved. In 1994, North Korea signed the
Agreed Framework with the United States, agreeing to freeze its plutonium programs and
eventually dismantle them in exchange for several kinds of assistance.2 Western
intelligence agencies at that time estimated that North Korea had produced an amount of

1 5MWe is a power rating for the reactor, indicating that it produces 5 million watts of electricity
per day (very small). Reactors are also described in terms of million watts of heat (MW thermal).
Although the reactor was optimized to produce plutonium, and is not connected to any electricity
grid, North Korea has always referred to it by the 5MWe rating.
2 See CRS Issue Brief 1B91141, North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program.

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