September 17, 2015 11:14
North Korea may be trying to obtain material for a hydrogen bomb by putting reactor at Yongbyon back into operation, a U.S. think tank speculates.
In a report on the North's nuclear facility at Yongbyon on Wednesday, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said, "As part of the renovation of the reactor, North Korean technicians reportedly installed (or renovated) irradiation channels in the core."
"One candidate isotope that must be considered is tritium, which could be used in making more sophisticated nuclear weapons."
He speculated that the North may want to conduct another nuclear test to obtain tritium.
"Isotope production requires a facility to separate the isotopes. North Korea built such a facility years ago, called the Isotope Production Laboratory in the northern part of Yongbyon near the old Soviet-supplied reactor," Albright said but added, "This facility dates to the 1970s and its operational status is unknown."
"Tritium would enable nuclear weapon designs that could have greater explosive yields than weapons made from only plutonium or weapons-grade uranium," he added. "Whether North Korea can make nuclear weapons using tritium is unknown although we believe that it remains a technical problem North Korea still needs to solve."
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