Joshua PollackNorth Korean Plutonium: Yawn

Lost in the hubbub over North Korea’s claim to have completed reprocessing of its remaining spent fuel rods is one small point: this isn’t news. It’s a reminder only.

Here’s what the KCNA news service has just stated:

In this period, the DPRK restarted the reprocessing facilities and successfully completed the reprocessing of 8,000 spent fuel rods by the end of August as part of the measure taken to restore the nuclear facilities in Nyongbyon to their original state which had been disabled under the agreement reached by the six parties.


Noticeable successes have been made in turning the extracted plutonium weapon-grade for the purpose of bolstering up the nuclear deterrent in the DPRK.

Notice that part about the “end of August”? Well, back in early September, North Korea’s UN ambassador delivered a statement that included the following:

Reprocessing of spent fuel rods is at its final phase and extracted plutonium is being weaponized.

Forgive my tone of impatience. But this wasn’t so very long ago, was it?

Before anyone asks, I have no idea whether North Korea’s claims in these matters are accurate.


  1. anon

    Perhaps sanctions are beginning to impact the NORKs “$17 billion annual economy”. Is there any real proof sanctions are working (e.g., cutting off the cash the North receives from its arms sales)?

  2. pkr (History)

    North Korea’s claims are at least plausible according to what Sig Hecker wrote in The Bulletin in May

  3. ppe

    @anon: Sanctions appear to impact weapon sales somewhat, but the overall DPRK economy and access to foreign currency is not being deeply affected by UNSCR 1874.

    As Joshua indicated without explicitly explanation, this is likely a reminder to the US, since previous statements have not generated the desired bilateral talks that Pyongyang is seeking.