Nuclear Tech Not a "New Capability" for North Korea, Experts Say

Kimberly Johnson
for National Geographic News
October 13, 2006

North Korea could be prevented from trading with United Nations member countries in response to the Asian country's claim that it has successfully tested a nuclear bomb.

The UN Security Council agreed today on text for a resolution endorsing sanctions against the communist country.

The nonmilitary sanctions, which will be voted on tomorrow, are meant to stop the trade of arms and other items that could further contribute to North Korea's weapons programs (map of North Korea).

But if a nuclear bomb was indeed set off, then North Korea built all of its own components, says nuclear expert Jon Wolfsthal of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

There was probably little innovation, he notes.

"This is technology that is now 60 years old," he said. "We have to assume this is something North Korea wanted to do for a long time and felt they could do without serious consequences."

In fact, North Korea's nuclear test "is not the introduction of a new capability," CSIS Asian policy expert Randy Schriver said yesterday during a press briefing in Washington, D.C.

Proliferation analysts have assumed that the country has had nuclear bomb capabilities for more than a decade, Schriver says.

Piling Up Plutonium

According to CSIS's Wolfsthal, "we believe that at this point, the only type of bomb North Korea can build is one fueled by plutonium."

Their device, if built, was probably an implosion bomb, he says.

Implosion bombs create a fission reaction, which causes the nuclei of atoms to split and release huge amounts of energy.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.