SEOUL--North Korea might carry out its next nuclear test with the simultaneous use of plutonium and uranium, a South Korean nuclear expert said May 2.
“It seems technical preparations are already done and a political decision only remains,” the expert said on condition of anonymity.
North Korea is reportedly preparing for its third nuclear test around Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong province.
Its past two tests are believed to have used plutonium. If North Korea carries out a nuclear test using uranium, it will be more difficult to determine how much weapons-grade nuclear material the country holds.
“(The issue) is whether (Pyongyang) has acquired enough information to produce a small plutonium-type warhead from the past two tests,” the expert said.
The expert said North Korea’s next test may involve plutonium, to collect more data, and uranium, which the country is believed to be enriching.
North Korea possesses an estimated 40 kilograms of plutonium and 4 million tons of recoverable uranium deposits, the expert said.
Based on North Korea’s 2010 declaration that it owned 2,000 centrifuges, the expert estimated that the country could produce an annual 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. About 3,000 scientists in North Korea are engaged in nuclear development, according to the expert.
The expert estimated the cost of a nuclear test at about $200 million, and said Pyongyang has so far spent $6.58 billion on its nuclear program.
That money could have bought an eight-year supply of nearly 20 million tons of corn from China, the expert said.
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