Skip to main content
CNN EditionWorld
The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!

U.S: N. Korea reprocessing rods

Korea protest
Riot police block a mock North Korean missile carried by South Korean protesters in Seoul where the two Koreas were holding talks Thursday.

Story Tools

more video VIDEO
South Korea's intelligence agency says it believes North Korea has begun testing devices used to trigger nuclear explosions.
premium content
• Analysis: What are the options?
• Six-nation talks: Where they stand
• Interactive: N. Korea military might
• Timeline: Nuclear development
• Interactive: The nuclear club
• Satellite image: Nuclear facility
• Special report: Nuclear crisis

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea has apparently begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods, suggesting the communist country intends to produce nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. official has said.

Air samples taken in the vicinity of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear plant indicate the presence of Krypton-85, a specific gas byproduct which suggests reprocessing of the materials is under way, intelligence experts said Saturday.

Sources said this month that American surveillance satellites identified a North Korean site about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of the Yongbyon complex that "may or may not" be a testing facility for the development of a nuclear weapon small enough to be put atop a missile.

The testing appeared to involve conventional explosives designed to simulate triggers for such small nuclear weapons, the sources said.

North Korea could have about 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, experts say. Those rods, if successfully reprocessed, could contain enough plutonium to produce between six and 12 nuclear weapons -- some within a matter of months.

U.S. intelligence has concluded that North Korea has at least one and perhaps as many as three nuclear weapons.

This week South Korea's intelligence agency said it believed the North Koreans had reprocessed "a small portion" of its estimated supply of fuel rods at the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

The revelation came in a report from the head of the South Korean National Intelligence Service to lawmakers in the country's National Assembly.

The report also said North Korea had tested devices believed to be high explosives used to trigger a nuclear blast -- a key component in the construction of a working nuclear bomb.

The spent fuel rods were part of a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program frozen under a 1994 pact between North Korea and the United States.

The nuclear crisis blew up last year when Washington said Pyongyang admitted to a secret nuclear weapons program, in violation of the pact.

The United States accuses North Korea of continuing with a covert plan to enrich weapons-grade uranium for use in bombs.

-- Correspondents David Ensor, Chris Plante and Sohn Jie-Ae contributed to this report.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Iran poll to go to run-off
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards

International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.