The independent resource on global security

North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) maintains an active but highly opaque nuclear weapon programme. North Korea is believed to have the capability to build a rudimentary nuclear weapon, but it is not known whether it has done so.

Estimates of the possible size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal vary considerably. They are based primarily on calculations of the amount of plutonium that North Korea may have separated from the spent fuel produced by its 5 megawatt-electric (MW(e)) graphite-moderated research reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre, prior to its ‘disablement’ in 2007 as part of the Six-Party Talks, and assumptions about North Korean weapon design and fabrication skills. It is estimated that North Korea has produced enough weapon-grade plutonium to be able to construct up to eight rudimentary nuclear weapons, assuming that each weapon used 5 kilograms of plutonium.