Summary of North Korea’s Known Gas Centrifuge Program

by Institute for Science and International Security

June 12, 2018

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August 15, 2011, revised June 12, 2018

Knowing the status and extent of North Korea’s gas centrifuge program remains a priority in denuclearization negotiations. The table on the following page is taken from a 2011 Institute study, Denuclearization and Verification of North Korea’s Uranium Enrichment Program, and is updated. It contrasts the expected centrifuge facilities and activities with a summary of what is known about each of them. The last column is an Institute expert ranking of what is known about each type of activity or facility. As can be seen, major gaps exist in the knowledge of North Korea’s centrifuge program. An average score across all major categories, on a 1 to 5 scale, where 5 represents completely known and 1 unknown, is two, meaning that knowledge about North Korea’s gas centrifuge program is rather unsubstantial in terms of knowledge of facilities and their status and accomplishments. In particular, estimates of the amount of enriched uranium produced by this program are highly uncertain. Summarized Institute estimates are that through 2017, North Korea made between about 250 and 1000 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium and an undetermined amount of enriched uranium at enrichment levels below weapon-grade, namely less than 90 percent enriched.

The following summarizes the scores drawn from the table on the next page.

A near term priority of the North Korean negotiations is obtaining a commitment from North Korea to fully declare its enrichment program, disable it, allow effective verification of it, and dismantle it. North Korea has no need for enriched uranium that could not be met via international supply at a far cheaper price, and thus it should thoroughly dismantle the program.

Table: Known Gas Centrifuge Program Summary

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