North Korea Tested – Something

I will write something more substantive later; today was going to be busy anyway.

North Korea announced last night our time, this morning theirs, that they had tested “a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.” That is highly unlikely. Early estimates of the yield, from the earthquake magnitude, range from 10 to 30 kilotons. That is much too small for a thermonuclear device of the kind that nuclear weapons nations have in their arsenals.

It could be a fizzle of a thermonuclear design, or it could be a test of some of the materials and principles needed for a thermonuclear design. Or it could just be a fission design. North Korea lies a lot.

Here are some useful links:

Background, written last year by Sig Hecker. Watch for his comments on this latest test when they appear.

How to detect a secret nuclear test. This video tells you what will be going on for the next days and weeks to learn more about the test.

Nukemap 3D is a great way to visualize the effects of nuclear weapons, if you want to do that.

Best tl;dr from Washington Post.

Analysis from the Institute for Science and International Security. This summary is similar to what a number of experts were saying on Twitter last night.

New York Times. Also, long Q&A.

NBC News report

BBC (top graphic from here)


The Guardian

Added later: 

The North Korean statement. Seems to be longer than one I posted earlier on Twitter.

From Fred Kaplan, at Slate.

Podcast by Jeffrey Lewis and Aaron Stein.

Sig Hecker and Wendy Sherman on The News Hour.

Jeffrey Lewis in Foreign Policy.

Behind North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme: a geriatric trio.

I’m quoted by Jonathan Landay here.

One comment

  1. Nukeman · January 7, 2016

    Tritides, deuterides and mixtures can be used for either core or tamper boosting. The South African design you described in which core boosting was used would have increased the yield very little over a “normal” implosion design. Declassified results from UK tests indicate that core boosting contributes maybe a 5kt increase in yield.
    All of the major powers have explored and tested core and tamper boosted designs. It is not widely recognized that the 4th Chinese nuclear test was a tamper (Sloika) boosted design. What is most interesting about this is that Indian (BARC) samplers located on commercial aircraft picked up fallout from this and other tests. The results of this sampling are available in a publically available BARC report that I can either send you or give you details on.
    If the NK test did use lithium the next question is what level of 6Li enrichment did the test employ. The NK have been enriching 6Li for many years by a number of different methods. Last question is was plutonium, uranium-235, or both used in the test. The US has very sophisticated samplers that can tell this much sooner than realized.
    I know you probably can’t answer my questions because of classification concerns but just wanted you to be aware of what information is available openly.
    If you remember when David Albright wrote about the AP graphs in late 2012 he talked about the HENRE code described by Sandmeier in a 1972 publication. I recently relooked at an interview of Roger Lazarus (LASL) done in 1995 in which he supplied further details of this and other codes. I have been pulling together further details of these codes and have some concerns about the proliferation value of such information. The information has been in the public realm for over twenty years and Iran and others must be aware of the existence of this.
    The Reuters article on the old men of the NK program was interesting but I recommend as a better reference for NK figures and nuclear journal articles. The NK have published probably a half dozen articles on 6Li isotope separation and can design a “sloika” type device without much trouble. Getting it to work may be more difficult but wait for the next test.


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