Possible North Korean Nuclear Test

Discussion in 'Political Discussions' started by BillDayson, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Reports are circulating that indicate that North Korea may have detonated a nuclear explosion on Thursday.

    The New York Times has been reporting that US officials have been concerned for the last month about what look like preparations for a nuclear test.

    See story:


    Now reports are appearing that a huge mushroom cloud several miles across was observed on Thursday, at a remote site in northeastern North Korea near the Chinese border, on the anniversary of the founding of North Korean regime and a traditional occasion for major events in that country.

    Here's an AP story:


    From what I'm able to piece together, both the US and South Korean authorities are talking it down, saying either that it probably wan't nuclear or that they don't know what it was. Reporters have contacted people in the Chinese city nearest the site, but these informants say that they didn't observe anything. But they also point out that there's a mountain range between them and the site across the border.

    There's a buzz about this in Russia as well and rumors are that several nations have redirected reconaissance satellites to pass over the site, indicating high-level interest.

    Meanwhile the North Koreans haven't said anything.
  2. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    The U.S. Gubbment is denying that the blast was nuclear. Believe me, if it WAS an atomic blast, they'd know without a doubt.

    The question is, are we being lied to? (For our own good, of course.)

    Actually, any number of University nuclear engineering and physics departments would also detect an atmospheric atomic test. I don't think Ashcroft could get to all of them quite this quickly.

    What it MIGHT be is a test explosion using a large quantity of conventional explosives to test measurement equipment and such, preparatory to an atomic test. The Manhatten Project did exactly that in 1945 before the Trinity test.
  3. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    My guess is that NK was trying to launch a rocket and it blew up on the pad. Their launch site is in North Hangyong Province near the border with China.

    On pad launch vehicle explosions, especially those with solid propellant, produce a big cloud of smoke and dust.

    I bet the USA had satellite imagery within minutes of this event.
  4. maranto

    maranto New Member

    There is no way that an open air nuclear detonation could be kept secret in this day and age. The sensitivity of radiation detection systems (as well as environmental monitoring systems used to track radionculides from commercial power systems) would pick up the fallout as it circled the globe... I'm pretty sure that no government could silence every university and independent laboratory in every country capable of this sort of detection... Zero probability. Ian is right, it was probably a conventional explosion or a rocket accident.


    P.S. when I first got into radioecology as a young scientist, I remember looking at the old fallout traces from our monitoring in Maryland and tracking the Chernobyl related deposition trace its way around the world twice. Sediment samples also showed spikes of Cs-137 that correspond to each open air test conducted by China until the 70s.
  5. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Yeah. Apparently this explosion occurred in a closed military area associated with that facility.

    It's no secret that they are working on very large missiles, including an ICBM capable of hitting the United States. So I'll join Ian in speculating that they might have planned to make a big splashy ICBM test on their national holiday, but the thing exploded on the pad.
  6. Khan

    Khan New Member

    There's a report now that they are doing construction on a dam and blew up a mountain. We'll see. Not that we can do anything about it now that we've shot all our dough on Iraq.
  7. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I'm just a layman about this stuff, but I wonder if a small high-altitude air-burst might be clean enough to avoid significant fallout.

    One reason why I ask is the still-mysterious apparent South African nuclear test in the 1980's. The distinctive nuclear flash was observed by satellites, near a group of South African ships in the southern ocean several hundred miles off the South African coast, but subsequent searches for fallout were inconclusive.

    It's interesting that despite the fact that South Africa later revealed that they had built six nuclear weapons and turned their fissionable material over to the US (making SA the only nation on earth to renounce nuclear weapons), this test still remains mysterious. I'm guessing that one reason for that continuing secrecy might be Israeli involvement.

    Yeah. You convinced me.

    I read that seismic stations that are able to record nuclear detonations didn't pick up this North Korean thing. An air burst might not create the seismic shock. But it seems to my layman's eye that if a nuclear explosion was low enough to kick up a huge mushroom cloud, then it would also generate easily detectible fallout.

    But while you and Ian (to say nothing of Colin and Condi) have convinced me that this wasn't a nuclear detonation, I do expect to hear of a North Korean detonation soon.

    Kim Jong Il is a guy who plays the edge. He uses his weapons programs a bargaining chips, and if he has gone to all this trouble to acquire nukes, he's going to want to get them into play as quickly as possible. So he will demonstrate their existence as clearly as he can, probably with a dirty surface burst.
  8. maranto

    maranto New Member

    You are probably right about a North Korean test (probably an underground test) being on the horizon, especially now with the revelations of ROK small scale testing with laser enrichment. The North will probably feel justified in making a point… unfortunately.

    I’m not at all familiar with the South African test to which you refer, but I’m doubtful that it could have been a nuclear explosion… it would have had to have been awfully high altitude, and even then I’m not sure that the fallout wouldn’t have been detectable. One alternative that springs to mind was that they may have been experimenting with early electromagnetic weapons… but this is pure speculation on my part.

    Either way, I’m sure that nobody is going to rush forward to explain it anytime soon.

  9. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Saddam Hussein never scared me. He never looked to me like a credible threat.

    North Korea DOES scare me. A lot. If W wants to take quick, vigorous military action, I'd be quite willing to go myself.

    (Empty promise; the Navy Reserve will be discharging me in May 2005 for having completed the maximum allowed commissioned service.)
  10. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    An airburst would still have significant fall-out. It would also put out significant electro-magnetic impulse that would be detected over wide (some of the US tests knocked out power lines over wide areas in the 50s-60s timeframe)

    I read somewhere that the nuclear burst was deep under the Indian ocean and was a joint test with another country.
  11. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    Pakistan scares me the most - all we need is for a rebel group to take power there - there has been at least two atempts to kill the leader of Pakistan.
  12. maranto

    maranto New Member


    Congratulations on retirement! Well deserved, I'm sure. Even though I agree that North Korea is a much more significant threat, they are also a lot tougher. There is little chance of rolling through North Korea the way that we rolled through Iraq. That, of course, makes diplomacy a much more attractive option.

    My guess is this mess will continue until there is a revolution in North Korea or until Kim Jong Il passes on. The ROK can talk about reunification all they want (and I'm always a little surprised at how naive they are regarding the North), but the fact is that the current regime is interested in resources, not in reunification (although they might accept reunification at the point of a bayonet).

    I've been to the peninsula 5 times (including some time around the DMZ) and the closer you get to the line of demarcation, the more you realize that the war hasn't really ended.

    I truly hope that there will be a peaceful reunification in Korea (I really love the country and the people, although I can live without kimshee), but I think it will take a lot longer than folks estimate.

    With the current planned shift of US troops out of Korea, I think that the South will soon realize that they have to address these issues and not just blame the US for standing in the way of reunification. Just my humble opinion.

  13. maranto

    maranto New Member

    Agree with you Ian... that is an unstable situation, especially as prone as Pakistan is to military coups. With both Pakistan and India able (and probably willing) to use nuclear weapons, Kashmir could be a quite neighborhood for a long time.

    Pray for the best, plan for the worst.

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