Washington, Nov.4 (ANI): North Korea's official news agency Yonhap has reported that the country has finished reprocessing 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods, which are likely to provide enough plutonium for at least one nuclear weapon.
North Korea has already carried out two nuclear tests, one in 2006, and one in May of this year.
Prior to Tuesday's announcement, Pyongyang had a stockpile of 30 to 50 kilograms of plutonium, according to the US Congressional Research Service. That is enough for five to eight nuclear devices.
Former Los Alamos National Lab director Siegfried Hecker has visited North Korea five times. He has noted that morale among nuclear scientists and officials seems high.
It is possible this attitude was just bravado. But other western experts have noted that the US should not underestimate North Korea's nuclear abilities.
There may, however, be a cap on Pyongyang's ability to produce more plutonium. The nuclear reactor at the Yongbyon complex, from which the plutonium was derived, was disabled in 2008, per an agreement reached between North Korea and five other nations in international disarmament talks.
It has not been rebuilt. A satellite photo of the site, taken in September and posted on the web site of the Institute for Science and International Security, shows no reconstruction efforts at the reactor site.
If North Korea wanted to increase its nuclear arsenal, it would have to either restart this reactor, or pursue some other means of producing fissile material.
The six-nation disarmament talks involving North Korea are currently stalled.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday that the Obama administration is focused on jump-starting those negotiations. (ANI)