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NoKo Nuke Test only Partial Blast

Now we're hearing that US intelligence thinks NoKo's test was nuclear but only a partial blast:

Four days after North Korea tried to set off its first nuclear bomb, U.S. intelligence agencies think the blast detected by seismic sensors was a plutonium-fueled device that did not fully explode.


"The working assumption is that what happened, more likely than not, was an attempted nuclear test that fell far short of being successful," said one U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment.

There is still no confirmation that North Korea succeeded in creating a nuclear explosion, and so far no radioactive particles that would confirm a successful nuclear test have been detected. The Washington Times first reported Tuesday that U.S. officials were having doubts, based on preliminary data, about North Korea's boasts about having successfully tested its first nuclear device.

The latest intelligence estimates of Monday's test at a nuclear test site near Kilju, in northeastern North Korea, put the size of the blast at 0.2 kilotons, or the equivalent of 200 tons of TNT. A plutonium-fueled nuclear device normally creates a much larger blast, in the range of 5 kilotons to 20 kilotons. A kiloton is the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

The detected explosion likely was produced by the conventional high-explosives used to split the plutonium atoms and produce a nuclear explosion, one official said. A second official said, "There was a yield that was in the several hundred ton range, but it at least partially failed."

Complete analysis of the data could take weeks, the officials said.


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Comments (13)

For cryin out loud the goof... (Below threshold)
914:

For cryin out loud the goofballs, how much fuel money and technology do the Clantons have to give you before you do it right?

The people quoted in the ar... (Below threshold)
John:

The people quoted in the article are clueless about physics, and of course the science-illiterate reporter who wrote it couldn't catch the grossly incorrect statement:

"The detected explosion likely was produced by the conventional high-explosives used to split the plutonium atoms and produce a nuclear explosion, one official said. A second official said, "There was a yield that was in the several hundred ton range, but it at least partially failed."

Explosives cannot split atoms. Either atoms split spontaneously or are split by neutrons ejected by splitting atoms. The explosives are used to compress a mass of Pu into a size where the neutron flux from the spontaneously splitting Pu atoms is sufficient to result in a runaway chain reaction. Duh.

So this test, as John notes... (Below threshold)
Kapow:

So this test, as John notes above, was almost certainly a plutonium weapon. Now, since 1994 we've known that NK had enough Plutonium (or Nuclear fuel that contains Pu) to make a few weapons. From 1994 to 2002 it was kept safely under IAEA supervision. IN 2002 Bush allowed NK to break the seals on the storage facility and begin purifying the Pu and making this (and presumabably other) weapons. This happened on Bush's watch - he didn't make them do it, but he sure didn't do anything to stop them either. So much for that pledge to keep WMDs out of the hands of the world's worst regimes. He broke off the agreement, that in part kept the Pu under lock and key, because of a clandestine Uranium enrichment prgram, but instead of insisting that they stop enriching AND the Pu stay under IAEA seal, he just sat back and... well what did he do exactly? Nothing. A very real WMD threat was ignored for 4 years. So now NK has the bomb (or is very close to a functioning bomb) and that, in my opinion, is inexcusable.

On Oct. 11, I posted that I... (Below threshold)

On Oct. 11, I posted that I thought the North Koreans had produced a low order nuclear explosion and that the probable reason for a high order explosion was due to the triggering device.

How to reliably trigger a nuclear device is one of the biggest problems associated with nuclear weapons. In our own Manhattan Project in the 40s, how to set the thing off probably consumed more time than the actual physics of splitting the atom.

I think the North Koreans will learn from their mistake and will refine the triggering device so they can conduct another test soon. That is why they call it a test.
Chuck

Kapow -<a href="ht... (Below threshold)

Kapow -

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/facility/yongbyon.htm

Looks like they were refining out PU since '86 - estimates are they had 24 KG in '92, and reported 90 grams to the IAEA. Quite a difference, eh?

Takes two to make diplomacy work - I think Kim conned the world from the start, and he had no intention at all of abiding by anything he signed.

Why would the IAEA keep it ... (Below threshold)
914:

Why would the IAEA keep it under seal? Instead of just confiscating it until it was deemed N K had no weapons ambitions? I mean You set all the ingredients for fireworks with a child and think they wont screw around with them and try to make it work? Ridiculous.

Sounds more like the milita... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

Sounds more like the military leaders set off a big boom (dynamite and C-4) and lied to the leader of moonbats. Wonder how many have met the firing squad this week. Failures in a communist country don't get a second chance. Wish we could do the democrats that way. Hey, they're headed into communism full bore so maybe it'll happen yet.

It's due to Kim's little pe... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

It's due to Kim's little peenie complex.

Yet another useful contribu... (Below threshold)
Kapow:

Yet another useful contribution there scrapiron, thanks. So you want to shoot Democrats do you? That sounds like the American way to me too. Can't you save us the trouble, not to mention you the embarassment, and just write these little comments to yourself?

"Can't you save us the t... (Below threshold)
Lee:

"Can't you save us the trouble, not to mention you the embarassment, and just write these little comments to yourself?"

The theory is good, but Scrapiron's medications are specifically designed to quiet those little voices in his head, so it's unlikely he can do what you ask.

The good news is that he no longer believes his couch is a communist submarine. The bad news is, he still has an internet connection.

And we all know what that c... (Below threshold)

And we all know what that can lead to.

Lee.

Lee said:" The ba... (Below threshold)
Kapow:

Lee said:
" The bad news is, he still has an internet connection."
Surely though, how he manages that remains a mystery. I mean, when you log in, you still have to be able to spell you name correctly, right?

J Lawson, That's a u... (Below threshold)
Kapow:

J Lawson,
That's a useful resourse, thanks for drawing my attention to it.

It's true that NK has had designs on nukes for a long time. My issue is, regardless of partisan politics, how to stop it. In '94 we had a sound military threat, but since we're tied down in Iraq now, can we use he threat of force with any credibility? I'm afraid this "go after the weakest link" approach to the axis of evil has left us rather hamstrung. What is the right response to NKs move? Well we can only negotiate now, since any threat beyond that would be laughed away. And there you have it. The" tough" Bush foreign policy has left us weaker than we've been in 40 years - good thing there's an alternative. Oh bugger...




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