The world is a dangerous place, and nuclear weapons, threats and tension make it even more dangerous. Enter North Korea and its ever-threatening stance of a new phase of the anti-US struggle that has lasted for many decades.
So, what are we talking about when it comes to North Korea and Nuclear threats? Let’s examine the threat, the potential bomb grade material, and where North Korea goes from here.
Nuclear Capabilities: The Making of a Bomb
The key to this program is making a bomb small enough that it can easily be mounted on a long-range missile. Miniaturization is the largest challenge. Why you may ask, is this a problem? The issue is re-entry shielding.
The plan is to launch a ballistic missile (more on that later) with a nuclear warhead small enough to leave space for shielding upon re-entry, so the bomb will go off over the intended target at a predetermined altitude, and not in space. Originally, the warheads were made of enriched plutonium, and tested in underground facilities in North Korea as early as 2006 and again in 2009.
Weapons-grade plutonium is defined as approximately 93% Pu-239. Artificially produced in nuclear reactors, the U-238 absorbs a neutron forming U-239, which decays to Pu-239 and is then separated and concentrated at a reprocessing plant. North Korea has a limited supply of Pu-239, estimated as enough for four to eight bombs. They closed their only plutonium producing facility in 2007, so the focus switch to uranium enrichment is tied to secrecy. One can only guess that uranium is naturally plentiful and more easily obtained in North Korea.