Was North Korean nuclear test a dud?

North Korea claims to have successfully tested a nuclear bomb and is awaiting congratulations. Even if the world had wanted North Korea to test, are kudos warranted?

Previously, North Korea caused a 2.3 magnitude seismic event using two metric tons of TNT. The event yesterday was magnitude 4.2, just about 100 times as powerful. Would that be equivalent to 2 metric tons X 100 = 0.2 kilotons TNT? If so, that’s not anywhere near the expected 20 kilotons of a nuclear test.

These are off the cuff questions by someone who has just enough knowledge to look stupid on the Internet. ArmsControlWonk has real equations, real knowledge, (a real funny picture) and comes to the conclusion that the test was a dud. Oops!

Update: Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping says it’s too early to call the test a dud. North Korea may have design a small yield nuke intentionally, in which case the test could be a success. Or North Korea may have used a ton (actually, quite a few tons) of conventional explosives in an attempt to fool the world.

Update 2: Russia claims the test’s yield was between 5 and 15 kilotons, not the 0.550 kilotons as measured by South Korea. Russia also claims North Korea warned them about the test two hours before it happened.

Update 3: U.S. intelligence agencies are questioning whether the explosion was nuclear.

“We’re still evaluating the data, and as more data comes in, we hope to develop a clearer picture,” said one official familiar with intelligence reports.

“There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn’t clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives.”

The underground explosion, which Pyongyang dubbed a historic nuclear test, is thought to have been the equivalent of several hundred tons of TNT, far short of the several thousand tons of TNT, or kilotons, that are signs of a nuclear blast, the official said.

The official said that so far, “it appears there was more fizz than pop.” (Source)

Where in the World is Mount Mantap? (Part 2)

Oops! I found the wrong location for Mount Mantap. :-( See Update 2 at the bottom of the page for the correct location.

Yesterday, I asked Where in the World is Mount Mantap? Today, thanks to GlobalSecurity.org, we know:

Mount Mantap is approximately 17 Km North-Northwest from P’unggye-yok, a rail-road station, Kilju County, North Hamgyeong Province. (Source)

This GlobalSecurity.org article continues:

In the late 1990s, the South Korean Government became aware that a tunnel was being dug in the area. According to another report, US intelligence had been monitoring the Kilju area since 2002. US satellite imagery detected mounds left from the digging of tunnels. It was possible to estimate the depth of the tunnel based on the amount of soil removed.

Since late August 2004, US intelligence had reportedly monitored activity consistent with preparations for a nuclear test. The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported in 2003 a series of tests of conventional explosives. Although there were several tunnels deep enough and with suitable terrain for a test throughout the country, there was only one place with a lot of activity.

By late April 2005, there were reports that North Koreans were constructing a reviewing stand and filling in a tunnel, both signs that an underground nuclear test was imminent. (Source)

Please follow the source links to read the entire article.

Another GlobalSecurity.org article shows satellite photos of the support building surrounding the suspected underground nuclear test site. The pictures don’t show a wide enough view to clearly show the location of Mount Mantap.

Fortunately, GlobalSecurity.org lists multiple other names for P’unggye-yok: Kilju, Kilchu, Kisshu, and Gilju. Google Earth was able to find Kilchu near the intersection of the blue lines shown on the picture above. (The blue lines are North-South and East-West lines from prominent coastal features of North Korea. The picture below shows the general location of the detailed view.) Going north from P’unggye-yok “approximately 17 Km North-Northwest” places Mount Mantap somewhere around the red oval (which is not a mountain, but a river bed…).

P’unggye-yok is only about 30 Km from North Korea’s Musadan-ri missile facility (green circle).

The Google Earth Community already has markers for other items around P’unggye-yok. Maybe in a few days, someone will find the exact location that matches the satellite pictures shown on GlobalSecurity.org.

Update: The pictures now link to Google maps or you can use the links below:

Update 2:

ArmsControlWonk found the correct location of the suspected site nearly two months ago, with pictures and a Google Earth .kmz file. Wow, I wish I found ArmsControlWonk a couple of days ago…

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