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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pakistan supplied North Korea with centrifuges for nuke programme

People have been wondering how North Korea moved so quickly to build Uranium-235 based nuclear bombs.

Uranium-235 is only one small component of Uranium ore. First the ore must be "enriched" to remove other Uranium isotopes, producing "depleted" Uranium as a byproduct. The enrichment process generally requires large numbers of highspeed centrifuges (presumedly because Ur235 has a different weight than other isotopes, therefore will separate out at different rotational velocities? I haven't looked into this).

It turns out Pakistani scientist AQ Khan, formerly running Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, supplied these centrigues to North Korea, thereby speeding up the North Korean nuke programme by many years.

My question: how does one supply large numbers of highly machined industrial equipment to a foreign Stalinist state without one's own military dictatorship finding out? Surely the Pakistani intelligence services have spies throughout the entire Pakistani nuke programme.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 8/25/2005 05:32:00 PM


Blogger Chefen said...

The bulk of uranium ore is U238 which, as you guess, when it is spun up in a centrifuge as a fluoride gas, separates from the lighter U234 and U235 isotopes. You need to do it over and over so need a chain of centrifuges. The other method is gas diffusion and basically uses a filter, which I think was the original method way back when but is still in use. I think the crazy states prefer centrifuges because they are easier to make and more economical on a small scale (ie for making bombs, not supporting a nuclear power industry).

8/25/2005 06:36:00 PM  

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