Uranium in North Korea
North Korea has natural uranium resources, a ready source of fuel for an enrichment process not dependent on other sources. And, the uranium enrichment facilities tend to be small, and un-obtrusive. It would make sense for North Korea to mine their own uranium, crush it into yellowcake and send it to uranium enrichment facilities across North Korea.
From the mined U3O8, which contains both U-238 and U-235, the uranium is converted to UF6, a gas.
To further separate the U-238 and U-235, the gas is piped into a centrifuge colony spinning at high speeds.
The heavier U-238 goes to the outside of the wall while the lighter U-235 goes to the center.
By repeating this process multiple times, they achieve a high concentration of U-235. When the concentration of U-235 reaches 85-90%, the U-235 becomes weapons-grade for bomb production.
Nuclear Rocket Launch: The Delivery Method
Although North Korea typically says they are only testing their rocket launching as a peaceful undertaking to explore space, few believe them. The first launch was in 1998, the second failed launch in 2006 and another in 2009. April 2012 saw the launch of a new ballistic missile named the Uhna-3 rocket. Its range is 10,000+ km or 6,214 + miles, and can hold 700-1,000kg in its warhead or 2204 lbs. That launch failed, but on December 12, 2012, Unha-3 successfully launched. Banners were hung celebrating the success with what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on display.
Nuclear North Korea
With eminent underground testing of their new uranium bomb and possibly a combination bomb of uranium and plutonium, and the success of the Unha-3, North Korea presents a significant threat to the U.S and the world. Even if the testing is not completely successful, how successful do they have to be while still posing a threat? Will the new leader Kim Jong Un continue down the nuclear path? All this remains in question, with the world looking on in anticipation.
Chowdhry, Affan. Can North Korea deliver on its threat to target U.S. with nuclear weapons. (2013). The Globe and Mail. Accessed January 29, 2013.
Lee, Jean. Will new North Korean leader detonate an atomic bomb? (2013). KPIC. Accessed January 29, 2013.
The Reporter. Launch, sanctions, nukes: North Korea may repeat cycle. (2013). Accessed January 29, 2013.
The Globe and Mail. North Korea’s nuclear program. (2013). Accessed January 29, 2013.
Ryall, Julian. North Korea to carry out third nuclear test ‘aimed at US’. (2013). Telegraph. Accessed January 29, 2013.