World News

North Korea claims nuclear fusion, prompts skeptics

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, one of the world’s poorest countries, said on Wednesday it had succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction to produce energy, a claim called absurd by nuclear experts.

The North, which cannot generate enough electricity to light the country at night, said it had created a new energy source it likened to an “artificial sun” to mark the birthday of state founder Kim Il-sung, also called the “Day of the Sun.”

Kim, who died in 1994, is the North’s eternal president, whose son has continued the family hold over the isolated state.

Its state media routinely makes claims about the laws of nature bending to coincide with the birthdays of its founder or his son and current leader, Kim Jong-il, that include the appearance of double rainbows and sunrises so brilliant that frost explodes with the sound of firecrackers.

“Maybe if two suns show up in the sky tomorrow, then people could believe the claim,” said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear expert at Seoul National University.

Nuclear fusion occurs when two nuclei are joined to form a heavier element, releasing enormous amounts of energy. The reaction takes place on the sun and other stars and would be extremely difficult for scientists to control.

There have been specious claims over the years of scientists saying they have found a perpetual energy source through nuclear fusion that have later been refuted.

“The successful nuclear fusion in the DPRK (North Korea) made a definite breakthrough toward the development of new energy and opened up a new phase in the nation’s development of the latest science and technology,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.

The North’s nuclear is centered on a Soviet-era reactor and borrows heavily from technology used in the 1940s and 50s.

“This seems highly inaccurate and grossly exaggerated,” Suh said “They probably conducted some small-scale experiment.”

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Christine Kim; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher