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North Korea Air Sample Shows Radiation 543

Posted by kdawson
from the what-went-boom? dept.
Apocalypse111 writes, "According to CNN.com, air samples taken over North Korea have not yet shown any radiation from the event on Monday that North Korea claims was a nuclear test. This is not definitive proof that the event was non-nuclear, as it may either have been so small and deep that it did not let any radioactive debris escape, or perhaps the North Koreans sealed the site." Furthering speculation over whether North Korea has actually exploded a nuclear device, vk38 writes to point out a (free) article in today's Wall Street Journal claiming that the blast could have been set off by exploding fertilizer (ammonium nitrate). The article points to the Texas City disaster of 1947, in which 7,700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the hold of a ship with the estimated power of 2 to 4 kilotons of TNT.
Update: 10/14 08:03 GMT by Z : The story at CNN has been updated: "A preliminary analysis of air samples from North Korea shows 'radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test,' according to a statement from the office of the top U.S. intelligence official."
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North Korea Air Sample Shows Radiation

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  • Oh my gawd (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:56PM (#16430055)
    OMG, they perfected Cold Fusion!
  • by Malakusen (961638) on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:58PM (#16430093) Journal
    Maybe all the North Koreans jumped up and down at the same time.
  • Hardware? (Score:5, Funny)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:58PM (#16430095)
    I think it's funny that this article is under the Hardware section. Maybe we could get Tom's Hardware to produce a 25-page full benchmark test of this nuclear explosion v. competing nuclear tests, and then we'll really get to the bottom of this.
  • Halifax Explosion! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:59PM (#16430103)
    Pfft, Canada does accidental explosions best: Halifax Explosion:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion [wikipedia.org] Atleast 200kTons there...
    • by nasor (690345) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:35PM (#16430551)
      The Halifax explosion was only around 2 kt, two orders of magnitude less than the 200 kt figure that you claim.

      Instead of very large accidental explosions, it might be a bit more topical to talk about known instances in the past where nations have deliberately simulated nuclear bombs with conventional explosives, like the 4 kt Minor Scale experiment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_Scale_(explosio n) [wikipedia.org]
      • by AJWM (19027) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:57PM (#16431507) Homepage
        Canada deliberately conducted a non-nuclear nuclear test (in cooperation with the US) in, IIRC, the 1960s. 500 tons of TNT -- a hemisphere about the size of a small house or large garage -- was detonated in one of the prairie provinces. (Sorry about the fuzzy details, this is from memory). The crater (ground level detonation) was as large as one from a multi-kiloton nuclear detonation in the Nevada Test Site, because the higher moisture content in and nature of the underlying rock conducted the shock better (and probably added to it from vaporization). This was hypothesized beforehand and one of the reasons they did the test in first place.

        Now, that 500 tons of (real) TNT was a 0.5 kt blast, about what the North Korea blast is estimated at from the shockwave. Could easily have been a few container loads of TNT. It's a pretty damp squib as far as even first-attempt nukes go.
        • by QRDeNameland (873957) on Friday October 13, 2006 @07:49PM (#16432053)

          There was a larger deliberate explosion in Canada: the explosion of Ripple Rock [vancouveri...abound.com], off Vancouver Island in 1958. It used 1,375 tons of explosives.

          I have seen the Ripple Rock explosion characterized as the "largest man-made non-nuclear explosion ever" or the "largest peacetime man-made non-nuclear explosion ever."

          You can watch the CBC footage here [archives.cbc.ca].

  • In Other News (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CodeArtisan (795142)
    Iran has also exploded a nuclear bomb. Or something. We're not really sure. Coulda been anything really.

    Seriously though - is this really news ? Shouldn't we wait until it's confirmed one way or the other before it makes sense to comment on it ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MyNymWasTaken (879908)
      Why would it be on slashdot, or any other social news site, then?
    • Re:In Other News (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lawpoop (604919) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:38PM (#16430599) Homepage Journal
      I think the news is that there is still *no* confirmation. North Korea said they were going to test a nuclear bomb, there was an explosion, and AFAIK, they claimed success. However, we're a week out and we are still not sure.

      So yes, we should know by now, but we don't. This is news.
    • Re:In Other News (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lally Singh (3427) on Friday October 13, 2006 @07:25PM (#16431775) Journal
      This is really the best confirmation data we have. DPRK says they set off a nuke. Even if a nuke had fizzled, it would've been bigger than the 550T explosion the seismometers felt. From here [washingtonmonthly.com], "A geology professor at Yale, Jeffrey Park, emails to tell me that the updated Richter magnitude for the North Korea event is 3.5, which he calls "mighty small for a crude nuke." And that's true: it suggests a very small yield. But the odd thing is that it's actually harder to build a 1 kiloton weapon than a 5 or 10 kiloton weapon, and it's unlikely North Korea has the expertise to do this."

      So, nobody's really sure what to believe right now, and eventually it'll just fall to consensus on the data we already have.

      The best place to hear about the debate's over at ArmsControlWonk [armscontrolwonk.com]. New radionucliotide data, insider info from some well-placed anonymous sources, and insights into the scientific cultures within dictatorships paints an interesting picture.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2006 @04:59PM (#16430119)
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:00PM (#16430133) Homepage

    Are we justified sanctioning and otherwise punishing it, even if it lied?

    This is more than an abstract question (like the famous "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there...").

    Saddam's Hussein downfall was (at least partially) brought about by his insinuating that he still has WMDs privately — to keep neighbors in fear, soldiers brave, and citizens proud, while claiming loudly, that he got rid of them all (which turned out to be true, after all)...

    • actually he never really inferred that at all. Even without WMD Iraq is no cakewalk (as we see in present day).

      The intel for WMD is allegely supposed to have come from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured after being reditioned. He later claimed he lied under torture.

      • by SydShamino (547793) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:14PM (#16431051)
        Even without WMD Iraq is no cakewalk (as we see in present day).

        The present-day insurgents weren't in Iraq until after we removed Saddam from power. He ran a run-of-the-mill dictatorship that used his religion (and that of most of his country) as a tool to control people, but he was no religious fanatic. He disliked the Taliban and the Bin Laden extremists almost as much as the U.S. does.

        Saddam's Iraq was a cakewalk. We "accomplished" that mission quickly, efficiently, and with minimal casualties on our side. Then, we started screwing almost everything up, and haven't stopped yet. We needed to create a stabler, more secure country faster, before zealots and extremists had time to enter the country and set up shop. Probably having more troops from a wider variety of allies would have helped tremendously, but that would have required us to earn more allies through discourse and compromise, something this administration is not able to do.

        Had we not entered Iraq, Saddam would have continued to do an adequate job of suppressing religious fanatics, and Iraq would not have become another Taliban country. (He would have continued suppressing his own people, too; he was still a dictator, murderer, and thug. I'm not denying that. But there are plenty of other murderous dictators in power around the world, some of which are our allies.) Overall, we've probably left the country in worse shape than if we'd just left it alone.

        We should have sent many, many more troops to Afghanistan (where we had internation support and justification for our invasion) to avoid the problems that country is having - resurgent Taliban because we didn't kill them all back then when they were in the open, and the country falling back into its longtime role as the world's opium supplier (something the Taliban had tried to suppress, but now profits from).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AoT (107216)
          The present-day insurgents weren't in Iraq until after we removed Saddam from power.

          I agree with your comment but you're technically wrong on this point. The vast majority of these insurgents were in country prior to the war but not actually fighting. And a lot of the Shi'a insurgents are related, literally and figuratively, to the uprising following the first Gulf War that we encouraged then let Saddam crush.
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:23PM (#16430407)
      Are we justified sanctioning and otherwise punishing it, even if it lied?

      Well, consider this: if someone comes to you and says "hey, I just crapped in your locker" without laughing, what do you do? either you punch him in the face rightaway for having crapped in your locker, or you don't believe him, look inside your locker, discover no turd, then turn around and punch him in the face for being a stupid asshole. Either way, you punch him in the face.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krell (896769)
      "If you dislike Bush, you should abhor Chavez [umb.edu]"

      OT, but good call. Can you imagine what people would have done if Bush had given a big loud speech blaming Jews for all the evil in the world for the last 2,000 years? Chavez did this. Or if Bush made a public speech with crude sexist comments about foreign female diplomats? Chavez did this (about Rice). Or, to show how petty he was, Bush passed laws to force all the radio stations in the country to play only the music he personally liked? Chavez di
      • by crabpeople (720852) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:41PM (#16431345) Journal
        And how many people has chavez killed? How many wars has he started?
        Unless you think petty namecalling is equivalent to hundreds of thousands dead. I mean the CIA even tried to kill chavez in a coup, if anything hes remarkably polite considering that. Saddam tried to kill bush's dad and look how he reacted.

        NK != IRAN != VENEZUELA

        Though that doesnt stop the administration from making you think otherwise.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Gocho (16619)
          How many people has Chavez killed? Let's see... there were 19 people killed at a march armed with FLAGS and SINGING. Chavez ordered the military and his civilian followers to shoot (http://www.venezuelaenvideos.com/pt01v01.htm). How about the ones killed by his inaction and invitation for crime? (The guy in charged of security says the media is exagerating when they say 90 thousand have been killed... he adds "it's only been 60 thousand, people!" (http://www.noticierodigital.com/forum/viewtopic. p hp?t=11781
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by WilliamSChips (793741)
        Aside from the first one, which was the Iranian president and not Chavez, you're right, Chavez is a nasty left-wing fucker. But one thing is still true about him, this being pretty much the fundamental law of communism--he's still better than the nasty right-wing fucker who immediately preceded him(Lenin and the Tsars, Mao and Chiang Kai-shek, Castro and Batiste). Can't say that about Bush and his predecessor. Would you like me to go find the list of fascist dictators propped up by the United States? It'
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SQL Error (16383)
          Lenin and Stalin killed 40 million of their own people.
          Mao killed 60 million of his own people.

          The Tsars and the Chinese nationalists were pikers when it came to bad government compared to the communists.

          The fundamental law of communism is that it is the worst political system ever invented. No exceptions.
        • "Aside from the first one, which was the Iranian president and not Chavez"

          It was the Venezuelan dictator who made the speech blaming Jews for all the evil in the world for the last 2,000 years. This speech was Dec. 24, 2005.

          "But one thing is still true about him, this being pretty much the fundamental law of communism--he's still better than the nasty right-wing fucker who immediately preceded him(Lenin and the Tsars, Mao and Chiang Kai-shek, Castro and Batiste)."

          You need to check your history:

          L
    • Are we justified sanctioning and otherwise punishing it, even if it lied?

      No yelling "FIRE!" in crowded theatres, no yelling "A-Bomb!" at the UN.
  • Sanctions? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CrazyTalk (662055) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:00PM (#16430137)
    The ironic thing is, the nations of the world are looking to impose sanctions - but can we really impose sanctions if it turns out it wasnt a nuke in the first place?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stratjakt (596332)
      Yes

      Should I be arrested for calling you every night and threaten to shoot you and your children, even if I don't actually own a gun?

      The fact that North Korea is saying they have nukes is threat enough to warrant attention.
      • The difference is that that's a matter of threat, a separate crime in most jurisdictions. (Indeed, in many it would be punishable only by a restraining order, or even not at all.) North Korea is not threatening to attack anyone unless sanctions are imposed. This is coercion, and that only becomes a problem when there's a real threat of sanctions, which were allegedly a response to nuclear weapons. If there are no nuclear weapons, there's no reason to impose sanctions, and I imagine that the UN will forb
      • by vertinox (846076)
        Should I be arrested for calling you every night and threaten to shoot you and your children, even if I don't actually own a gun?

        You mean threaten to shoot you and your children if you or your children go into his yard.

        I can call you every day and tell you this fact if you enter my private property (aka National Sovereignty) that I'm going to shoot you. Heck... I might get into trouble if I don't post this information on my fence.

        But the key issue here is whether or not North Korea has a bomb, but rather th
      • Especially since (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:49PM (#16430749)
        They are using it as a point of blackmail. If you look at their rhetoric they are demanding that the world congratulate them on their successful test, saying that any sanctions will be an act of war (wtf?), and that how they proceed from here will depend on how nice people are to them.

        To run with your analogy this is like someone holding a gun to their child's head and demanding you give them money to not shoot their kid. Regardless of if it's a cap gun, the fact that they'd stoop to that level of blackmail means that they need to be stopped.
    • Re:Sanctions? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Duncan3 (10537) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:12PM (#16430291) Homepage
      What exactly would you saction?

      The are already starving, lack electricity in 95% of the country, are almost completely uneducated, and make most starving African nations look rich in comparison.

      They quite literally have nothing to lose, which is very sad.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:00PM (#16430141)
    I have nukes!

    No you don't

    Boom!

    That wasn't a nuke!

    Boom!

    Sorry, just don't believe you!

    Boom!

    No no.. never. That was just gas.

    errrr.

    Oh.. you used all your material and you are out now?

    (reminds me of puss and boots with the mouse).
    • by Kidbro (80868)
      #62705 [bash.org] +(57)- [X]
      <toe2toe> the part i like is where IRAQ's going "we got nothing"
      <toe2toe> and US is going "PFFFT WE'RE GONNA TAKE YOU OUT"
      <toe2toe> and then
      <toe2toe> North Koreas going "CHECK OUT OUR NUKES, BUDDY"
      <toe2toe> and US is going "Hey... are you iraq? no? THEN STAY OUT OF IT"

  • It doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:02PM (#16430167)
    For years they guy has been openly claiming to be working on a bomb. The fact that he does not unambiguously have one yet is astounding.

    With all the information that is public, it *is* trivial to create a bomb. Access to plutonium, which he has, is the hard part.

    I hate to introduce politics, but it has to be said, Saddam maybe, could have, possibly, been working on something, if you look at the intelligence "just so." North Korea, has been openly saying they are working on these bombs. North Korea sells arms to our enemies. I blame Bush on all counts. The guy is all about acquiring power, but without the wisdom or honor to use it well.

    I am remeinded if Bill Maher, Usually you have an administration that is corrupt or one that is inept. The Bush administration is both.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      We created Saddam, made him a credible threat, basically placed him in power... and more importantly he is within our reach. We can't mess with North Korea without the blessing of China.
    • by Flavio (12072)
      I am remeinded if Bill Maher, Usually you have an administration that is corrupt or one that is inept. The Bush administration is both.

      I used to make this division between corrupt and inept as well, until I realised that the best way to disguise corruption is to fake ineptitude. While people can be sued for corruption, it's much harder to sue for incompetence. So the thief keeps part of the money, does a shoddy job with the remainder and people think he's a bad administrator, but still honest.

      That said, I'm
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:52PM (#16430805) Homepage Journal
      I hate to introduce politics, but it has to be said, Saddam maybe, could have, possibly, been working on something, if you look at the intelligence "just so." North Korea, has been openly saying they are working on these bombs.

      Which is why Kim Jong Il is still in power and Saddam isn't.
      Bullies don't pick on those who could seriously fight back.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:07PM (#16430975) Homepage
      The theory is trivial, and the tech and materials are mostly trivial, again with the exception of the plutonium. But that doesn't mean constructing a working implosion device is trivial. You have to be extremely precise in your calculations in order to pull it off. This is why the culmination of a nuclear program always involves a live test, because that's really the only way to be sure that your math and engineering were correct.

      And, because in the modern age there are thousands of seismic sites and many radiological sites that can detect the seismic and radioactive signature of a nuclear explosion, a nuclear test is also the announcement that you have succeeded in your nuclear ambitions. For a recent example of how a nuclear test is both final exam and public announcement, see Pakistan.

      So the fact that a successfull nuclear test would be quite apparent (and as we are seeing the absence of a nuclear test as well), and that NK called China to tell them so they would be sure China was watching closely, tells me that this was probably a real nuclear test. A test that, it would appear, failed. If memory serves, they told China to expect a 2KT explosion, with the actual measurement at about 0.5KT?

      Sounds to me like they had at best a partial detonation of the nuclear material, but didn't have the timing of the high explosives good enough to pack all the plutonium into a small enough ball for it all to react before the reaction force blew it apart.

      Saddam could bluff about having chemical weapons. Kim can bluff about developing nukes, but it really doesn't make sense to try to bluff a nuclear test. And of course we know he desperately wants them. So I'm going with the theory that this was a real nuclear test, just a failed one, and North Korea doesn't have a working nuke yet, but they are very close. The data from just this test may be enough for them to fix it.
  • hm, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:02PM (#16430181) Journal
    I really wouldn't be amazed if it wasn't a nuke. They obviously want people to think they have nukes (whether they do or not) because otherwise they wouldn't have said they were going to do it and just passed it off as a light earthquake.

    One can easily see from the increase in prestige and offers that Iran has been given for just saying that they want nuclear power that it gives your country an "edge"... I think it has backfired a bit - but we'll have to wait and see. Either way it's understandable why he would want to make it look like he has them. If Kim was thinking about the situation rationally then he would also know why China wouldn't want to put too many conditions on North Korea - which is to say that what China really fear is thousands of immigrants flooding in, after all, the nukes North Korea has will never rival China; and they can't even deliver the bombs anyway! (as far as I know they only have the ability to deliver something like that on a boat or train, really)
  • C'mon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blang (450736) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:03PM (#16430193)
    How the hell would NK come up with some 500 fully loaded dump trucks worth of fertilizer, and dump it in a hole? It would be visible from the friggin moon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by IcyNeko (891749)
      With the amount of crap that comes out of Kim's mouth? Not hard to imagine.
    • It doesn't need to be on the surface, and I don't think it's that hard. I'm sure a lot of underground mines have a lot more interior space than that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vellmont (569020)
        I don't know of many underground mines that come pre-equipped with a few thousand tons of explosive. Do you?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alienmole (15522)
      Guess you won't be getting that analyst job at the CIA. It would be trivially easy to truck that fertilizer into a cave or mine somewhere, spread out over time, and detonate it when you're good and ready.
  • by zogger (617870) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:06PM (#16430221) Homepage Journal
    ..a real nuke, but the government right now REALLY doesn't want it to be a real nuke, because they would have to put up or shut up over their "no nukes for axis of e-vile" places. So who knows? They have been more or less threatening Iran now for a long time on the theory they are even developing one, and saying "dire consequences" and a lot of pre emptive strike speculation, etc. So, what can they do to N. Korea if they really had one? Invade, or a pre emptive strike? Ha! They are already on the serious manure list for most everything, what else practically can they do about it? What "sanctions" are even left of any importance that aren't already beng imposed?

    OK, get back to the question. If a nuke was buried deep enough and the caverns sealed before the blast, with a very small nuke, would radiation escape to be detected? And wasn't there a lot of talk the other day that the seismograph guys were good enough to tell just from the signature?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      So, what can they do to N. Korea if they really had one? Invade, or a pre emptive strike? Ha! They are already on the serious manure list for most everything, what else practically can they do about it? What "sanctions" are even left of any importance that aren't already beng imposed?

      I think that "total" economic sanctions would be effective. This means absolutely nothing in or out--no food, no medicine--nothing. Despite complete self-reliance being Dear Leader's wet dream, the NK regime would collapse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nuzak (959558)
        Blockades are an act of war. I mean, this is a regime that calls being served kimchee that's too warm an act of war, but this would really actually be one. You may as well just start knocking out the artillery with a surprise attack.

    • And wasn't there a lot of talk the other day that the seismograph guys were good enough to tell just from the signature?

      I think what was meant was that they can tell whether it was natural earthquake or an artificial explosion. My guess is that an earthquake is a drawn-out affair relative to an explosion, which would be closer to a single peak. I think the easier to build types of nuclear bombs are single-stage so you probably wouldn't get a major double spike that would make it known for certain that it
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <<gro.tserofed> <ta> <todhsals>> on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:06PM (#16430223)
    It's not so hard to pile up ten thousand tons of conventional explosive, and as discussed in the previous thread on the test itself there is some value in convincing your neighbors that you have nuclear weapons regardless of whether you actually have them.

    The revised seismic figures were (if I recall right) something like 0.5 kT equivalent. The smallest easy-to-build bombs (those that have supercritical assemblies without hyper-compression of the metal) yield something like 10-30 kT, so this was either a fizzled nuke or a large pile of ANFO (or something like that).

    In the last discussion I made a big deal about the Kamioka observatory and how they "should" have been able to see neutrinos from the blast -- but with an 0.5kT blast the number of neutrino interactions is only 1 or 2, so they can't be expected to distinguish a large chemical explosion from a very small fizzled nuclear explosion.
    • by Vellmont (569020)

      t's not so hard to pile up ten thousand tons of conventional explosive, and as discussed in the previous thread on the test itself there is some value in convincing your neighbors that you have nuclear weapons regardless of whether you actually have them.

      No it's not, but it's pretty hard to pile up ten thousand tons of conventional explosive in a remote area and not have anyone with a satellite see you do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AJWM (19027)
        it's pretty hard to pile up ten thousand tons of conventional explosive in a remote area

        Nobody is talking about 10,000 tons. The estimate is 500 tons. At a density of about 1.65, 500 tons of TNT is about a 21 foot cube. About two or three moving van loads, although you'd need to spread it a bit thinner than that for the weight. If you're digging a hole and setting up instrumentation for a test, a few extra trucks spread over several weeks or months is no big deal.
    • by fusiongyro (55524)
      Due to the nature of nuclear reactions, I find it very implausible that it could have "fizzled." It's a damn chain reaction - set it and forget it, as the saying goes.

      However, I think it's probably better to take the claim at face value than risk being wrong.
      • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:41PM (#16430645)

        I find it very implausible that it could have "fizzled." It's a damn chain reaction - set it and forget it, as the saying goes.

        Then you need to learn a bit more about nuclear physics. Plutonium is a bit trickier to set off as a nuclear weapon do the fact that it can start a reaction before it's compressed down to the intended size. What happens is the chain reaction stops short of the intended yield because the ball of plutonium literally blows itself apart before you get enough generations of neutron reactions to yield enough energy.
    • I don't think it makes sense to drop 500 (or 1000) tons of explosives in a hole, blowing it up and pretending it to be a nuke. Such a small explosion would certainly give the idea of a fizzle, showing that NK does not have weapons yet (since the "prototype" failed). It would also show that a nuclear capability is imminent, so everyone interested would be acting to prevent that.

      On the other hand, gun type bombs are not really tested that much. Little boy went straight to hiroshima without testing, because th
    • by partofthething (816738) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:57PM (#16430885) Homepage
      We had a departmental meeting about this the other day where a bunch of nuclear engineering professors got together and discussed what they thought had happened. The concensus was that this was actually a nuclear device. Almost definately. The seismic signals are the giveaway, and here's why. When a pile of chemicals explodes, they explode on a timescale of the speed of sound. So, the seismic signal from the explosion would be on the order of micro- to milli-seconds. When a nuclear device explodes, it happens in the time it takes for fast neutrons (>200keV) to get across a few centimeters. Now we're talking about nanoseconds. The seismic people have enough experience looking at explosions to be able to tell chemical from nuclear, and this one apparently looks nuclear. It also looks to be 0.5kT or so. That makes it by far the smallest yield 1st test ever. Which either means they have perfected making small bombs (which is incredibly complicated and wasn't done by the Los Alamos people until 15 years after their first test), or they failed in their test. The latter is very likely. They've also wasted a lot of Pu-239 or U-235 (probably Pu) and contaminated their expensive underground test facility. Lets count the days together to see how long they take to test again. If it's quick, they have plenty of material. Only time will tell.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeffrey Baker (6191)
        Doesn't this theory assume that the theoretical large pile of conventional explosives is detonated from a single source? Couldn't the signature of the detonation be shortened by detonating the same amount of material with multiple detonators?
      • by AJWM (19027) on Friday October 13, 2006 @08:25PM (#16432339) Homepage
        We had a departmental meeting about this the other day where a bunch of nuclear engineering professors got together and discussed what they thought had happened.

        You should have called in some mining engineers. Your analysis is a bit off.

        The speeds involved were close enough -- although the detonation of 500 tons of TNT takes about half a millisecond and given your energy for the neutrons that takes closer to a microsecond -- but either kind of explosion has to couple the energy to the rocks surrounding and propagate out from there as seismic waves for the seismic people to detect it. That coupling is going to be affected by the precise nature of the surrounding rock -- density, water content, etc. Without knowing that, it will be hard to tell the difference even with good seismic signals (or a much more powerful blast).

        There were only (as I recall) a few stations that even detected the blast, enough to triangulate it but not enough for really good signal data. Good enough to tell that it was an explosion rather than an earthquake, but not to determine the kind of explosion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        Yay, my amateur ramblings were backed up by nuclear engineers!

        The seismic people have enough experience looking at explosions to be able to tell chemical from nuclear, and this one apparently looks nuclear. It also looks to be 0.5kT or so. That makes it by far the smallest yield 1st test ever. Which either means they have perfected making small bombs (which is incredibly complicated and wasn't done by the Los Alamos people until 15 years after their first test), or they failed in their test. The latter is
  • I remember Protect and Survive [youtube.com], Duck and Cover etc etc... the diagrams taught me that the fall-out descends like rain, so how would they detect it overhead...
  • by acidrain69 (632468) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:09PM (#16430253) Journal
    You can seal the site before detonation. It's not that difficult. The US has done it hundreds of times during the cold war and just before.

    Also, the estimates (which vary according to which country you ask) are less than 1 kt. As far as nukes go, that is very tiny. How much rad would you expect from this? How deep was the explosion? I know that they registered seismic activity, which was how they knew it happened. How accurate can one guage depth using seismographic equipment?

    For some perspective, the US 1954 Castle Bravo test was 15 MEGA tons, and it was a mistake, they were only expecting like 1/3rd of that. The "ruskies" detonated 50 Mt, the largest ever, in 1961. There has been over 2,000 nuclear tests by the world nuke powers since they began, most of them from the US.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_bomb [wikipedia.org]

    A neutron bomb is a type of tactical nuclear weapon developed specifically to release a relatively large portion of its energy as energetic neutron radiation to harm biological tissues and electronic devices that are otherwise relatively protected from the heat blast without causing nuclear fallout.
  • by WilyCoder (736280) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:17PM (#16430337)
    In between bouts of decrying "Sooo Wone-wy", Kim was quoted as saying that news of the faked nuke test was "Inebbidable!"
  • Now Kim Jong-il is spreading FUD...
  • by kinglink (195330) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:18PM (#16430351)
    North Korea seems to have failed at the very essence of the Nuclear test. The idea isn't to test if your nuclear bomb work, you better fucking know your technology is ready before you even hint you have the bomb. The idea of a nuclear test is to PROVE you have the bomb, and to prove it works, and to show everyone you got big balls. They have not done this, and this further proves it. They might have one, but you don't brag about an underground nuclear test unless you have something to prove and North Korea definatly has that.

    Personally I think it proves they DONT have a bomb.... yet. And more likely their real first test will be over Japan/Israel/South Korea/ whereever else, and their second will be during the all out nuclear bombardment where all the countries give them all the nuclear power they need, though they'll have to figure out how to contain it.

    North Korea and Iran are both playing dangerous games. They are acting like children at the grown ups tables. Let's hope they mature or get slapped before they become teenagers who get into a massive car accident and "kill" one or more of the adults
  • by throx (42621) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:19PM (#16430363) Homepage
    If we run around telling him he didn't really explode a nuke then it's only incentive for him to try again. Far better to pat him on the head and pretend it was the world's most wildly successful nuke test and get down to the business of what to do about it.
    • I disagree... (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's far better that they blow up their own country than someone else's. Just keep saying "Nuh-uh!" long enough, and they'll waste some more of their weapons grade materiel in a mountain compression exercise...
  • FTFA in question:

    Sometimes, they took only one--the night watchman of the fertilizer plant in Toulouse that disappeared from the face of the Earth in 2001.

    Uh, what?

    The disaster caused 29 deaths (28 from the factory, one lycéen -- secondary school/high school pupil -- from a neighbouring school), 2,500 seriously wounded and 8,000 light casualties. Two thirds of the city's windows were shattered, causing 70 eye wounds and several thousand wounds had to be sutured. The full environmental consequ

  • The Guardian (UK) was archiving their anti american articles there and they came in contact with some bad kimchee
  • by anshil (302405) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:48PM (#16430731) Homepage
    IANAE (I am not an expert), but underground nuclear explosions do usually not emmit radioactivity, at least at the moment.

    As far I understood an article I read some time ago, the gigantic heat of the explosion melts the surronding soil into a glass cave which conceils the radioactive mess.

    The problem is only after years of even decades, this glass sealing can (and at some point will) break and set the radioactivity free. Then the radiation levels will boost up... Thats another problem of humanity waiting we create now (our legacy for our kids).. all this sealed nuke-eggs from past underground expiriments loosing integrity at some future point.
  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:52PM (#16430803)
    test is to prove that you have a nuke. Testing publicly before you actually had more than a few dozen seems silly. Nobody in their right minds would threaten to use a Nuke, particularly if they only had one or two. Sure they might cause a localised disaster here - how much damage can one nuke cause to the US - but the response would turn the whole country into a sheet of glass.

    Who bets this was a well calculated plan by some sensible N.K. scientists to demonstrate that in fact they have nothing for us to fear.
    Of course idiot Kim wouldn't know what a real nuke is capable of, probably felt the earth shake and thought to himself, "cool, now I have a big penis too.". Also a calculated response from some sensible N.K. scientists.
  • Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Friday October 13, 2006 @05:53PM (#16430815) Journal
    Apparently nobody recalls the catastrophic "mysterious" explosion of a train in North Korea last year?

    Hm...why would they be shipping railcars full of explosive anywhere?

    Face it, "dear leader" is just an attention wh0re.

    Although I confess I expected that he would have at least loaded the cave with a bunch of Fiestaware? Old smoke detectors? bought off ebay to give it SOME sort of radiation signature.
  • by k2r (255754) on Friday October 13, 2006 @06:55PM (#16431487)
    What if the explosion in 2004 happened while transporting / stacking explosives to fake a nuclear test?
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ryongcho n_disaster&oldid=79574083 [wikipedia.org]

    k2r
  • It's politics. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CherniyVolk (513591) on Friday October 13, 2006 @08:21PM (#16432315)

    I knew China wasn't really going to do much about the advertised nuclear testing in North Korea. Just days ago, fellow Americans argued that China would help America every step of the way. The reports on BBC News beats a far different tone.

    The problem with Nukes is two fold really. First, it's pretty much science and that much every man has the right to know; problem solving is a capability inherent in all humans. So, I think the main factors of developing such technology reside soley in ability to apply the acquired/developed knowledge of a group of scientists. Controlling who gets what materials currently known to work. Politics comes into play here, make the world look down on you if you do go through with it. But, nothing can stop a person from going to a library and picking up a book; and for men of the calibur to become Generals and National Leaders... determination is every bit as tangible as the solid brick wall infront of you.

    I have little doubt in my mind that North Korea detonated a nuclear device. We all have a very basic and crude understanding of how it fundamentally works. It's really only a magnitude of elegance and stability between my 600lbs of home-made shock stabalized nitro-glycerin, nitrocelulos and gun-powder, all crudely shape charged towards colliding necessary fuels together with enough force to initiate a violent nuclear reaction. But, how on earth am I going to get the "fuel" from? All the other stuff is relatively easy to come by with a little effort.

    Sooner or later, Afghanistan will have the capacity to build a thermo-nuclear device. Sri-Lanka, Madagascar, Iran, Chechnya perhaps. An elegant, stable one even; probably far more sophisticated and engineered than what we currently have, by the time they do. Along the way, those opponents against developing nuclear arms are left with their hands tied behind their back. Like I said, there's only two real controlling factors, politics and resources. Once an interest group gets their hands on the resources, they may ignore the politics if they so choose to. Which leads me to...

    Perhaps, the only thing left to do is try to belittle the effort of the target (North Korea), hiding under the reality that not one authority in the entire world would have any allies at all should they pre-emptively launch a nuclear weapon at anyone. Then, quitely, accept the fact they have Nuclear Weapons. I'm surprised that one may often run into an American at a bar or club, who has yet to aware of the fact India and Pakistan are Nuclear. Even knowing so, still doesn't sit right due to how much poverty exists in those countries...

    So, I think all of this hooplah (including the wikipedia implicitly saying that the explosion was conventional by adding it to a list of large conventional explosions.), is just aftermath propoganda warfare.
  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Friday October 13, 2006 @10:58PM (#16433193)
    This is all about payola. The western powers and china don't want the North Koreans selling weapons grade nuclear fuel on the open market. The size of the explosion is irrelevent.

    It's simply a statement in poker game. You didn't believe we could do it... Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Now pay up!

    The truth is that if North Korea fuel actually was used in a terrorist attack on the US, north korea would be blown off the map and there would be raidiaon fallout in asia for at least 20 to 40 years and to a lesser extent all over the rest of the world.

    China already knows the score, they will be notified of any immmenent attack and given the option of taking North Korea out themselves when the time comes in exchange for something like a hundred billion dollars. Of course south korea would be devestated and that's why we don't just do it now.
  • by Deslock (86955) on Saturday October 14, 2006 @12:00AM (#16433505)
    U.S. intelligence statement: N. Korea radioactivity detected

    From http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/10/13/nkorea .test.sample/index.html [cnn.com]

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A preliminary analysis of air samples from North Korea shows "radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test," according to a statement from the office of the top U.S. intelligence official.

    The statement, from the office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, was sent to Capitol Hill but not released publicly. CNN obtained it from a congressional source.

    If confirmed, the nuclear weapons test that North Korea claimed it conducted on Monday would be the first of its kind since Pakistan's underground blast in 1998.

    Pyongyang's claim has renewed fears of a regional arms race and that North Korea might aid terrorists with nuclear materials or technology.

    The national intelligence office statement said the air samples were collected Wednesday, and analysis found debris that would be consistent with a nuclear test "in the vicinity of Punggye" on Monday.

    "Additional analysis is ongoing and will be completed in a few days," the statement said.

    The South Korean Defense Ministry told CNN that the United States has informed it that radioactivity has been detected.

    The report is in contrast to information provided to CNN earlier Friday from two U.S. government officials with access to classified information. Those officials said that an initial air sampling over North Korea showed no indication of radioactive debris.

    The White House said it had no confirmation that the North Koreans conducted a nuclear test.

    "We've seen the various press reports," said National Security Council spokesman Fred Jones. "We still have no definitive statement on the event. The intelligence community continues to analyze the data."

    The U.S. Air Force flew a WC-135 Constant Phoenix atmospheric collection aircraft on Tuesday to collect air samples from the region.

    The intelligence community and the military will also continue to collect air samples in the region and use satellite information to try to collect radiological data that would confirm a nuclear test, officials said. But as time goes on, it will be increasingly difficult to achieve confirmation.

    Officials emphasized earlier Friday that the data collected are preliminary and provide no conclusive evidence about the North Korean event.

    It is possible there was no radiological data. That could be the case if: the North Koreans successfully sealed the site; it was such a small detonation and so deep underground there was no escape of nuclear debris; or the test was actually conventional explosives.

    The U.N. Security Council has agreed to vote Saturday on whether to impose sanctions on North Korea over the purported nuclear test, according to John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

    CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Jamie McIntyre and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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