Jeffrey LewisNORK Fuel Rod

There has been a lot of technical discussion about the North Korean fuel rods, from their size to how they are stored.

Now, the South Korean government has a released pictures of a rod and the rods in storage. Awesome!

Photos of North Korea’s unused fuel rods to produce plutonium, the material for nuclear weapons, are disclosed yesterday. The photos were taken Jan. 16 at a warehouse of a nuclear fuel rod factory in North Korea by a South Korean fact-finding team led by Hwang Joon-guk, chief of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry`s policy planning bureau on the North`s nuclear program.

Thanks Allen Thomson, you rule!

David Albright and Kevin O’Neill claim that each uranium fuel rod has “a diameter of 2.9 centimeters, a length of 52 centimeters, and a mass of 6.242 kilograms.” That’s a 18:1 length to diameter ratio, which is broadly consistent with the image.

Somebody want to throw that into SketchUp and make sure?

Update: Friend of Wonk Derek DeJong modeled the image in SketchUp and, yes, it is indeed as David Albright and Kevin O’Neill suggest. Click on the image for the SketchUp file (it is live now):

You rule, too, Derek!


  1. peter (History)

    There are more photos at DailyNK

  2. Major Lemon (History)

    I know a big problem these North Koreans have is where to get yellow shoe polish.

  3. Rwendland (History)

    Don’t forget there are two types of fuel rod; the 6.2kg one for the 5MWe experimental reactor, and a heavier one for the 50MWe reactor abandoned under the 1994 Agreed Framework. I think both were manufactured pre-1994, certainly the 50MWe rods were.

    The fuel rods are not finned for best heat extraction, which seems somewhat like UK’s early magnox fuel and unlike the later finned designs for higher power reactors. Calder Hall (50MWe) fuel rods weighed roughly around 11kg each I think, for comparison.

    If fact they look a bit like bare machined uranium rods before they are inserted into Magnox cans. I wonder if these might not be in final fuel rod form for insertion into a reactor? More likely NK used a very simple magnox canning process, so they show the shape of the underlying uranium rod.

  4. blowback (History)

    Have you read this

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cast doubt Sunday on a claim by the Bush administration that North Korea had a clandestine program to enrich uranium, and she said she will focus on getting the Pyongyang government to give up its stock of weapons-grade plutonium.

    Maybe we will soon find out that the BoE was also a figment of Dick Cheney’s/Elliot Abram’s/Charles Craphammer’s imagination.