Friday, June 27, 2008

North Korea Disables Reactor: Progress, of a Sort

After making sure that politicos and journalists from around the world were watching, North Korea's regime blew up the Yongbyon reactor's cooling tower. Whatever condition the reactor is in, it won't be used. Those things generate a lot of heat, and now the radiator's busted.

And, North Korea has said that they extracted plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons. Maybe around 110 pounds. That doesn't sound like much, but it's enough for 10 nuclear bombs: assuming that each has 5 kilograms of plutonium. That's enough for something shy of the 20 kiloton explosion (like the Trinity test, in 1945): if I did my math right. It's not as powerful as the bomb that devastated Nagasaki, but it's a serious weapon.

(from, used w/o permission)

There's a diversity of opinion on just what North Korea's media event means, including:
  • " 'This is a critical piece of equipment for the nuclear reactor,' said analyst John Wolfsthal, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has been following North Korea since the 1980s. 'Without this facility, the reactor can't operate and can't produce more plutonium for weapons.' "
  • "The tower is a technically insignificant structure, relatively easy to rebuild. North Korea also has been disabling - though not destroying - more sensitive parts of the nuclear complex, such as the 5-megawatt reactor, a plant that makes its fuel and a laboratory that extracts plutonium from its spent fuel.
    " 'It's symbolic. But in real terms, whether demolishing or not a cooling tower that has already been disabled doesn't make much difference,' said Lee Ji-sue, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Myongji University."
    (International Herald Tribune)
I'm inclined to agree with Lee: today's implosion even made a great show, but probably has little practical effect on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

On the other hand, blowing up that tower has done more good than boost ratings for some news networks.
  • Even though it could be re-started easily, that nuclear facility is out of service for now: thanks to a deal between North Korea, America, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China
  • After this dramatic show, it's going to be a bit harder for national leaders to ignore a North Korean nuclear program
Is this news event an epochal event, heralding the dawn of a new age? Hardly.

I think that it's mildly hopeful, and may have positive results, down the road.

In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.