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N. Korea Claims `Nuclear Fusion Success`

Posted May. 13, 2010 07:32,   


North Korea claimed Wednesday to have achieved a nuclear fusion reaction by developing a “unique and homegrown thermonuclear reaction technology.”

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the daily Rodong Sinmun (Labor Newspaper) published on the same day as saying, “In a meaningful period to mark Sun Day (April 15, the birthday of the country’s founder Kim Il Sung), our scientists successfully achieved the feat of carrying out a nuclear fusion reaction,” adding, “The success of a nuclear fusion reaction is a milestone showing our technical prowess.”

“Our scientists have struggled to develop nuclear fusion technology in our own way,” the paper said. “In the process, we have designed and produced a unique thermonuclear reaction device and concluded basic research on a nuclear fusion reaction. Based on this, we have secured strong technological capabilities to complete thermonuclear technology on our own.”

Pyongyang made a similar claim 21 years ago. The daily said on May 8, 1989, “A research team at Kim Il Sung University has successfully carried out a nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature." The North failed, however, to verify its claim since it did not follow an international verification process.

The South Korean Unification Ministry commissioned the Science and Technology Policy Institute in December last year to draw up a report on North Korea’s technological level and analyze fields the North is interested in.

According to the classified report, Pyongyang selected 20 main tasks under its third five-year plan (2008-2012) for science and technology development. Of them, the development of a mixed reactor for nuclear fusion and fission was included in the nuclear sector, the report is known to have said.

“The mixed reactor combining nuclear fission with fusion is a cutting-edge technology that even advanced countries are at the stage of conceptual research,” the report said. “The North is apparently pursuing the development of such technology by designating it as a main national task to further strengthen its capability to develop more potent nuclear and hydrogen bombs.”

Unlike fission that creates atomic bombs, fusion uses energy originating from the process of the forced merger of hydrogen atoms.

No country has commercialized fusion to generate electricity, but the U.S. and Russia have produced hydrogen bombs using the technology.

South Korea said the North has not developed a meaningful level of nuclear fusion technology yet, namely that used to produce electricity. A government official in Seoul flatly denied the North’s claim, saying, “Expensive facilities are required for nuclear fusion generation but no report has been made on such facilities. North Korea’s claim is groundless.”

Other experts say the announcement is part of the North’s tactical move to induce bilateral talks with the U.S. and obtain economic aid by succeeding at a basic level of nuclear fusion.