May 13, 2010 12:24
North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported on Wednesday that scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction by overcoming "a countless number of technological difficulties completely through their own abilities." The newspaper claimed the success paves the way for the development of a new source of energy. It is difficult to ascertain the truth of the claim based solely on the Rodong Sinmun report and to determine just what type of "nuclear fusion reaction," if any, the North achieved.
South Korea, the U.S., the European Union, China, Russia, India and Japan are jointly pursuing the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, in Cadarache in southern France by 2015. The reactor alone costs 5.1 billion euros, and it will take decades before the experiment bears fruit because of the difficulty of building a reactor that can maintain temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius. "North Korea doesn’t have the experimental reactor needed to develop nuclear fusion technology, and it is hard to believe it succeeded on its own in solving a problem that has defeated advanced countries so far," said one South Korean government official.
North Korea's announcement should probably be understood as saying that it succeeded in developing some of the technology needed to produce a hydrogen bomb. Unlike atomic weapons, which use nuclear fission to generate a blast, H-bombs are far stronger. If North Korean leader Kim Jong-il gains access to H-bombs, South Korea would be faced with yet another nuclear threat. The South Korean government needs to take North Korea's claims seriously and make sure preparations are made to deal with all possibilities.
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