As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

That's A Lot Of Kimchee

Back when I was funny, I used to do a joke about North Korean nuclear testing that basically went "Let them test, because every bomb they test is one less they have. Do you know how much kimchee you have to sell to afford another one?" The Washington Post basically backs up my joke in the context of Pyongyang restarting their nuclear program.

TOKYO, April 15 -- Despite its defiant vow to restart a plant that makes plutonium, North Korea's capacity to add to its small nuclear arsenal is limited by aging technology and by machinery that was disabled as part of a disarmament deal.

Using fuel rods now in storage, the North could process enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon within six months, according to expert assessments.

But it would take 6 to 12 months to restart all facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear plant, and its capacity to produce plutonium is limited to about one bomb's worth of material a year, according to a published assessment by Siegfried S. Hecker, a periodic visitor to the plant and a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Other experts with on-the-ground knowledge said it would probably take much longer for Yongbyon, a Soviet-era facility where maintenance has been neglected, to resume production [...]

Still, before it can reactivate its plant, the cooling tower at Yongbyon will have to be rebuilt, according to Cha Du-hyeogn, an expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, a semi-government think tank in Seoul. North Korea blew up the cooling tower last year in an attention-grabbing display of its commitment to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for food, fuel and diplomatic concessions.

North Korea is a poor country, and while they consider nuclear technology a means to their survival, it doesn't exactly mean they have the means to mass produce it. What's more, even the nuclear test in 2006 wasn't exactly successful. As much as they desire to be seen as a powerful nation, North Korea is a lesser-order problem.

With Iran warming to negotiations over its nuclear program, I would focus my energies there. North Korea's Tinkertoys are a cause for a little concern, but there's some lead time to figure that one out.

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