North Korea, which fired dozens of artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong this morning, could make one or two bombs' worth of enriched uranium per year if its new enrichment facility is fully operational, a nuclear analyst says.
The shells killed two soldiers and set houses ablaze, according to Reuters, in one of the heaviest attacks on South Korea since the Korean war in the 1950s. The two countries then exchanged further fire.
These events closely follow reports on 20 November by an engineer and two nuclear policy experts from the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in California that they saw an industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant in a visit a few days earlier to North Korea.
North Korean officials told the team that the plant has 2000 centrifuges that are already being used to separate fissile uranium-235 from the more abundant uranium-238.
If that is true, North Korea could make 30 to 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium per year, enough for one or two nuclear weapons, says Hui Zhang of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Although North Korea is believed to already possess plutonium-based nuclear weapons, uranium-based weapons can be more efficient, allowing them to produce more powerful explosions, says Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC.
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