Monday, April 9, 2012

North Korea Perhaps Preparing for Nuclear Weapon Test

As tensions rise from a upcoming satellite launch, photos indicate North Korea may in addition be preparing for a nuclear test. 

Nuclear test claim adds to launch tensions


The soil is believed to have been brought in to seal the tunnel, a final step before a nuclear device is detonated. 

South Korean media quoted government officials as saying they could not rule out the possibility of North Korea setting off a nuclear device built with highly enriched uranium, unlike two previous tests where plutonium was used. North Korea performed two underground tests at the same site in 2006 and 2009.


Highly enriched uranium HEU is also a component of larger yield modern weapons with the primary ignition being a plutonium device. I am not sure from the article(s) if they are expected to test a higher yield device.

A missile launch is set for Thursday the 16th. 




Stockpile Estimates

The DPRK proved its nuclear weapons capability with a successfull underground nuclear detonation on 9 October 2006. The size of the North Korean stockpile, however, is still widely unkown. According to various sources of information, North Korea seemed to have reprocessed enough plutonium to produce one or two nuclear weapons. In addition, sufficient plutonium for another six nuclear weapons remained in fuel removed from the reactor at Yongbon but stored under international supervision, under the provisions of the 1994 Agreed Framework. 

Publicly available evidence does not permit an assessment of the extent of the uranium program, and there is a considerable range of uncertainty. It is generally agreed that North Korea has attempted to acquire technology related to uranium enrichment from sources in several countries, including China, Russia and Pakistan. It is also generally agreed that, compared to the plutonium program, the precise status of the uranium program would be difficult to assess using sources such as satellite imagery. In contrast to the large and distinctive plutonium production reactors, a uranium enrichment program could be dispersed and hidden underground.

As of February 2005 Defense Intelligence Agency analysts were reported to believe that North Korea may already have produced as many as 12 to 15 nuclear weapons. This would imply that by the end of 2004 North Korea had produced somewhere between four and eight uranium bombs [on top of the seven or eight plutonium bombs already on hand]. The DIA's estimate was at the high end of an intelligence community-wide assessment of North Korea's nuclear arsenal completed in early 2005. The CIA lowballed the estimate at two to three bombs...

Sites:


Upcoming satellite launch:




NOTAM

Issued from Pyongyang, North Korea.
A0028/12 - DETAILED INFORMATIONS ON THE LAUNCH OF
SATELLITE 'KWANGMYONGSONG-3'ARE AS FOLLOW:

1. LAUNCH SCHEDULE,
   RESERVED DATE: 11-16 APRIL 2012
   TIME : 2200NEXT 0300(UTC) DAILY

2. PLACE OF LAUNCH,
   WEST SEA SATELLITE LAUNCH SITE IN CHOLSAN COUNTY,
   NORTH PYONGAN PROVINCE

3. FALLING AREA COORDINATES,

FIRST STAGE FALLING AREA
351225N 1245223E
351213N 1243034E
355510N 1245025E
355520N 1243210E

SECOND STAGE FALLING AREA      
150819N 1244615E
150935N 1234527E
192308N 1244513E
192432N 1235426E. 

GND - GPA0CTAG.GPA, 11 APR 22:00 2012 UNTIL 16 APR 03:00 2012.

CREATED: 06 APR 05:30 2012



Interesting blog chatter :

RE: North Korea satellite: NOTAMs inconsistent with claimed sun-synchronous orbit

North Korea Is Lying About Its Rocket Launch, Sat-Watchers Show 

More News:


U.S. tells North Korea not to carry out nuclear test

North Korea nuclear test under preparation, Seoul claims

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