North Korea’s nuclear test site at risk of imploding, Chinese scientist says


#1

The single mountain under which North Korea most likely conducted its five most recent nuclear bomb tests, including the latest and most powerful on Sunday, could be at risk of collapsing, a Chinese scientist said.

By measuring and analysing the shock waves caused by the blasts, and picked up by quake stations in China and neighbouring countries, researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, said they were confident that they were all carried out from under the same mountain at the Punggye-ri test site.

North Korea tests nuclear bomb it says can be made into warhead for long-range missile

The team from the seismic and deep earth physics laboratory made the claim in a statement posted on their website on Monday. Its leader, geophysicist Wen Lianxing, said that based on data collected by more than 100 earthquake monitoring centres in China, the margin of error was no more than 100 metres.
Wang Naiyan, the former chairman of the China Nuclear Society and senior researcher on China’s nuclear weapons programme, said that if Wen’s findings were reliable, there was a risk of a major environmental disaster.

Another test might cause the whole mountain to cave in on itself, leaving only a hole from which radiation could escape and drift across the region, including China, he said.
“We call it ‘taking the roof off’. If the mountain collapses and the hole is exposed, it will let out many bad things.”
Sunday’s blast was followed by an earthquake eight minutes later, which China’s seismic authorities interpreted as a cave-in triggered by the explosion.
How China responded to previous North Korean nuclear tests

Not every mountain was suitable for nuclear bomb testing. Wang said, adding that the peak had to be high, but the slopes relatively flat.
Based on the fact that North Korea has a limited land area and bearing in mind the sensitivity of its nuclear programme, it most likely does not have too many suitable peaks to choose from.
How long the mountain would continue to stand would also depend on where the North Koreans placed the bombs, Wang said.

“If the bombs were planted at the bottom of vertically drilled tunnels, the explosion would do less damage,” he said.
But vertical tunnels were difficult and expensive to build, and it was not easy to lay cables and sensors to collect data from the explosion, he said. Much easier was to bore a horizontal tunnel into the heart of the mountain, but this increased the risk of blowing off the top, he said.
The increasing size of North Korea’s nuclear bombs was also making “topping” more likely, Wang said.

“A 100 kiloton bomb is a relatively large bomb. The North Korean government should stop the tests as they pose a huge threat not only to North Korea but to other countries, especially China,” he said.
Wang added a caveat, however, saying that the calculations made by Wen and his team could be wrong. Quake waves travel at different speeds through different rocks, so it was not easy to make precise predictions based on seismic data, he said.
In the meantime, Chinese authorities, including the National Nuclear Safety Administration, would continue to closely monitor every nuclear test conducted by North Korea, Wang said.
China and Russia unite against North Korean nuclear test

Radiation readings taken by the government on Monday showed nothing out of the ordinary.
Wen’s team estimated that the energy released in the latest test was about 108.3 kilotons of TNT, or 7.8 times the amount released by the atomic bomb dropped by the US on the Japanese city Hiroshima in 1945. It also dwarfed all previous bombs tested by the North Korean military.

No radiation detected outside North Korea after nuclear test, say China, Japan

A team of scientists in Norway estimated the amount of energy released by the blast at Punggye-ri on Sunday at 10 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
Wen, who is also a professor of geosciences at Stony Brook University in New York state, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


#2

Is this enough for China to have some actual skin in the game now? Unless they want radiation pouring across their country they should be doing everything they can to shut North Korea down.


#3

If China chooses not to act then the South Koreans or Japanese will. China can probably talk Lil Kim off the ledge, or give him more mountains to test his nukes in. I don’t know if that’s likely, but the Chinese like about everything so who knows.


#4

Well we can only hope .


#5

North Korea is an example of the failure of limp-wristed Liberalism. Had the US dealt with this problem severely and completely in the 90’s, we wouldn’t be on the edge of a nuclear holocaust. Of course, at the time, the American leader had other priorities like sticking cigars in a woman’s vagina.


#6

That’s not likely to happen as prevailing weather moves east to west.


#7

Sorry but this is the aftermath of the Korean war.


#8

Not much calm to be found on the far-eastern front alas …

And justifiably so.

Surf to any major news site for more, depressing, and developing, details.

Does anyone see a scenario where this ends well for everyone?


#9

On its current trajectory - no. Even Putin commented on that yesterday. This has become sort of a positive feedback situation, continually self-amplifying. It’s very dangerous and literally millions of lives are at risk.

We need a third party to throw some water on this…and the only one that can is China - which seems a bit conflicted about what to do. NK used to be useful to them - the noise it made both covered China’s activities and made China seem ‘moderate’. But lately …

It’s really to our great advantage that China went the route of global capitalism rather than one of continual ‘revolution’. It’s fortunes are now tied to the fortunes of the US/Canada and Europe (and they even need Japan whether they’d ever admit that or not). No point in being the worlds #1 producer if your prime customers (and debtors) are frying in radioactive waste …

Hmm … Kim loves to run his mouth … maybe he’ll say something that can be interpreted as a threat to China ? That’d really be their excuse to move in.


#10

NK washed the US depot leaders in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and is certainly threatened by the current situation. They must feel a few nuc’s the answer to their problems.

What they ignore is the retaliation would end their country and a large part of their population or perhaps they don’t care.

China would certainly be affected as well as all their neighbors.

There is no happy ending to this story.


#11

The interesting thing about this detonation is that it registered Richter scale readings were in the 6.0-6.5 range depending on the sensor stations. This puts the weapons yield around 100-kilotons or slightly more - enough to cause devastation in even a large city.

Typical US/Russian nukes are also about 100kt. Some larger devices are maintained in the inventory of course but 100kt will usually get the job done. It is said that NKs bomb is very likely a “one-stage” thermonuclear - meaning there’s an a-bomb that super-compresses a chamber/capsule of fusible elements. Some literature refers to this as a “fusion-boosted” a-bomb.

Most US/Russian devices are “two-stage” or “fission-fusion-fission”, wherein the fusion reaction is directed against an additional bar of plutonium or uranium causing a secondary highly-efficient fission reaction. A large percentage of the power, and fallout, actually comes from the secondary fission. Russia’s infamous 50-megaton ‘Tsar bomb’ was designed to be a 2-stage, but at the last minute they decided to remove the fissionable secondaries, cutting the power from 100-mt to “just” 50. This likely spared the world a very large dose of fallout.

NKs biggest a-bomb to date was about 20kt.

Clearly the “boosting” has multiplied that force by a factor of five. For reference the Hiroshima and Nagasaki a-bombs were in the 12-15kt range.

These are formidable weapons, strong enough so that pinpoint accuracy becomes less of an issue.

And now everybody has to decide what, if anything, to DO about this - preferably before NK can make a lot more of this model. Can/will China finally intervene in a meaningful way now ? Will Kim now be totally convinced he’s invulnerable and can do anything he wants ? Will SK or Japan get so nervous they’ll do something rash ? ONE of these devices landing on Tokyo or LA would cause literally millions of deaths.

Oh …and NK has very cleverly dispersed its weapons-production facilities and almost all of its tactical missiles are on mobile carriers. This means there are no fer-sure targets to strike in the event the US/SK/JP wanted to launch some kind of preemptive action. They can hit us, but we can’t hit them well enough to prevent further attacks.


#12

A few well placed nucs in NK would eliminate the need for cannot host the as there would be little to hit.

Perhaps this is yet another ploy to hold the US hostage and demand money in exchange for playing nice as has ben our past history.

And the reality, can thy even hit the US? Testing is not doing.

The Pentagon successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile on Tuesday in what was widely seen as a test of US ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.
The Missile Defense Agency launched a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to intercept a US-launched mock ICBM target over the Pacific Ocean, according to a US defense official.
The test ICBM, which flew thousands of miles per hour, was destroyed “thousands of miles off the coast” of the US mainland, with the intercept taking place northeast of Hawaii, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, Vice Adm. Jim Syring, told reporters at the Pentagon via a Wednesday phone call.

https://www.mda.mil/system/system.html


#13

North Korea has made speedy advances in its nuclear weapons program, but the rogue nation probably can’t yet reach U.S. cities with nuclear-tipped missiles, analysts say.

North Korea conducted a test Sunday of its most powerful nuclear bomb to date, triggering a fresh wave of concern about the country and its unstable leader Kim Jong Un.

It was North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, and Pyongyang claimed it detonated a hydrogen bomb, although that has not been confirmed by other nations.

Targeting a U.S. city requires a long-range missile that can carry a hefty nuclear payload and then survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

“It’s too early to conclude” that North Korea can effectively target mainland U.S. cities with significant nuclear weapons, said David Albright, an analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

There’s little debate, however, that North Korea has made rapid headway in recent years in both missile technology and weapons development and is on a path to being able to reach U.S. targets.

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Kim has already threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and remains an immediate threat to South Korea and other U.S. allies in the region, which North Korea could reach with conventional weapons and shorter-range missiles.

“I don’t think time is on our side here at all,” said Philip Coyle, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, who remains skeptical that North Korea can currently target U.S. cities with large payloads. “Are they there now? I don’t think so, but if we keep fooling around they are going to get there.”

North Korean officials are master propagandists who want to convince the world they have an effective threat so they will be treated as a nuclear power. “The North deliberately exaggerates their capabilities,” Albright said.

For its part, Washington doesn’t want to underestimate the threat from North Korea, highlighting the danger it poses to the United States and its allies.

The heated rhetoric on both sides sometimes masks the North’s current capabilities. The recent spate of missile tests has generated alarm about North Korea’s ability to reach the mainland United States.

David Wright, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a recent blog that a July test by North Korea of an intercontinental ballistic missile indicated its missiles could reach Los Angeles, Denver or Chicago.

But the bulk of the North’s missile launches have been high-trajectory tests to determine missile range. An actual missile attack would be launched on a flatter trajectory with a heavy warhead attached.

In its most recent missile test, North Korea sent a missile flying over Japan on Aug. 29. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled about 1,700 miles and reached a maximum height of 341 miles as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

“They could carry a hand grenade, but whether they could carry something bigger is unclear,” Coyle said.

Another technical challenge for an intercontinental ballistic missile is re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The process generates heat that can burn up a warhead if the missile and warhead are not designed properly.

Television imagery from the missile test over Japan seemed to show the missile breaking up as it re-entered the atmosphere.

“It’s one thing to build a missile and a bomb that can be carried on it, but then you have to survive the environment in space and re-entry,” Coyle said.


#14

North Korea has arrived where they are via a good bipartisan effort. George Bush didn’t do anything either. In fact, Hussein failed to acquire nukes before Bush toppled him, the Libyan leader surrendered his nuclear program during Bush’s tenure, and we see what happened to him and his country. USFP for years now is teaching countries that being a nuclear power is the best way to guard against US regime change.


#15

NKorea has been a problem far longer than its arrival as a nuclear state… Seoul is an expensive and densely populated piece of real estate to sacrifice without the determination of those people… we stopped 38th parallel at the behest of a politician managing yet another war from the comfort of Washington…It’s about time we either disengage from all of these ‘war socialism’ projects made famous by Wilson and FDR or if we decide to engage… do it with… gusto…


#16

Yes, it was a bi partisan effort.

Beginning with Truman managing the war to today. Politicians managing wars is a sure loser as proven by Truman, Johnson, Bush 2. and of course Obama.

A bit early to name Trump but it wouldn’t be a surprise.

p.s. A few nucs will not prevent regime change just making it a bit messier.


#17

I think there were a few more presidents than just the ones mentioned, but yes, from the beginning it’s been problematic. IMO the blustery talk is just that. Nukes represent a deterrent. There is no military response that would be acceptable and most people know this. China and Russia have every interest, if different, that the US does in North Korea. Trump certainly is having an effect as well.


#18

The thing about this North Korea situation is that someone will have to blink. Kim just can’t keep threatening us or our allies without some form of response. I am getting a little concerned that Trump might end up pulling an Obama red line move. Trump is using tough talk but he hasn’t been backing it up. Essentially Kim is calling Trump’s bluff and keeps moving his nuclear program forward.


#19

Actually, the US, beyond its nuclear and military might has one very formidable weapon… unfortunately we haven’t been maintaining it any better than we have our military ones… It is our economy, at least for the near future. We have the ability to bend the world economy to our will in most any way we choose… but that window of opportunity is closing fast. Yes, anything we do to China will cost us… but then again, when has the civilian population of the US really been ‘involved’ in our national interest?


#20

The economic threat to China is a real game changer but the people of the US have to be willing to engage in the ‘war effort’… The Chinese government would not be able to handle the revolt created by a crumbling economy… Would it cause China to lash out?.. I doubt it because while they might have a few nukes, their power in in their land forces… we don’t need to engage that…