2010 Korea bomb 'tests' probably false alarms, says study

Oct 09, 2012
24 hours of data from a seismic station in Mudanjiang, China, on the date of one purported 2010 North Korean nuclear test. Background levels are higher during working hours than at night, suggesting human causes such as traffic, electric motors and passing trains—but there is no indication of a nuclear explosion, say the authors of a new paper. Each line represents one hour, sampled 40 times per second. Credit: Schaff et al., 2012

(Phys.org)—This spring, a Swedish scientist sparked international concern with a journal article saying that radioactive particles detected in 2010 showed North Korea had set off at least two small nuclear blasts—possibly in experiments designed to boost the yields of much larger bombs. Shortly after, the pot was stirred with separate claims that some intelligence agencies suspected the detonations were done in cooperation with Iran. Now, a new paper says the tests likely never took place—or that if they did, they were too tiny to have any military significance. The new report, by seismologists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will be published later this month in the journal Science & Global Security, where the earlier paper also appeared.

It is generally accepted that North Korea has carried out at least two nuclear test explosions, in 2006 and 2009. The Lamont scientists studied both those blasts via the seismic waves they generated. They concluded that the second test—thought to be in the range of about 2 to 4 kilotons—was five times more powerful than the first, though still dwarfed by the weapons of established nuclear powers. (A kiloton equals the explosive energy of 1,000 tons of TNT.) The suspicions of more tests in 2010 were based on whiffs of radioactive xenon and barium detected in South Korea, Japan and Russia in May that year; but it was not until March 2012 that Lars-Erik De Geer, an atmospheric scientist with the Swedish Defense Research Agency, published the information, and suggested clandestine explosions of 50 to 200 tons as the sources. Several weeks later, a former high German defense official publicly suggested that the tests might have been done on behalf of .

Many experts quickly expressed skepticism, as there was no public evidence of seismic waves normally linked to such explosions; however, since then, tensions have continued to rise. In August, defense analysts warned that North Korea had made significant progress on a plant to produce highly enriched uranium, suitable for bombs. And lately, there have been increasing calls for pre-emptive attacks by the United States or Israel to keep Iran from developing a bomb.

"The recent claim of nuclear testing in 2010 has led to publicity that could be very dangerous at a time when so much belligerence is in the air," said Paul G. Richards, a coauthor of the new paper. "There could be consequences to a false alarm—you could start a war." Richards and his coauthors, David P. Schaff and Won-Young Kim, say in their paper, "It is important to find confirming evidence for such a serious claim and thus build up support for it, or to find objective and contrary evidence and thus help make the case that the claim is invalid." 

Before 1996, some 2,000 nuclear tests were conducted, many in the open. Since, then, three nations have broken a de facto ban: India, Pakistan and North Korea. Here: a 1958 U.S. underwater test at Enewetak Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Credit: U.S. Government

The paper makes a detailed case that no explosion anywhere near the size of that hypothesized in 2010 could have taken place. For one, the region is heavily seeded with some 100 seismic stations in both China and South Korea. Data from many of them are stored locally and difficult for outside scientists to acquire, but they include an open-access one in Mudanjiang, China that has in the past recorded high-quality signals in and around North Korea from earthquakes, small chemical explosions, and the nuclear tests of 2006 and 2009. Based on this data, the scientists say that no explosion of more than a single ton could go undetected—and on the days of the purported tests, no such signals were seen. 

A key qualifier, they say, is the assumption that an underground blast would be "well-coupled" with surrounding rock—that is, not isolated in a hollowed-out cavity that would absorb much of the shock. Some scientists and politicians fear this could be used to hide significant tests; but Richards says the logistics of digging out a spherical cavern big enough to fool modern seismic networks—never mind keeping such a vast excavation secret from spies and satellites—have become near-impossible. He says that the very best could have done was to light what he calls a "nuclear firecracker"—a wimpy puff that would do nothing to advance a weapons program.

The international community's ability to reliably detect even small nuclear tests has grown rapidly in the past decade, following the signing of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by over 180 nations. Since then, hundreds of new stations have been installed that detect not just seismic signals, but waterborne sounds, low-frequency sounds in the air, and releases of radioactive isotopes. Scientists are still learning how to interpret this new flood of data. In regard to the 2010 radionuclide detections, alternate explanations suggested by various scientists include a leak at one of the dozens of civilian nuclear-power plants operating around east Asia, or from a nuclear-powered vessel passing through. 

The United States remains one of a handful of nations that has not ratified the test-ban treaty—based partly on politicians' protests that instruments, including seismometers, cannot reliably pick up hidden tests. But, like a growing number of scientists, Richards says that technological advances and the increasingly dense network of monitoring stations have made those concerns outdated. The purported 2010 test is a good example, according to him. "The quality of monitoring has grown so high, nothing of military significance can go undetected," he said in a recent video from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. In March, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a detailed report to the same effect; Richards and Lamont seismologist Lynn R. Sykes were participants in that.    

Richards and his colleagues have continued to work on the issue. In September in Washington, D.C., they presented workshops in monitoring advances to U.S. Senate staffers, and attendees at a session hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are also working on combing through the fast-growing archives of past seismic events around the world to refine methods of detecting any future nuclear tests. "Let us hope there will be very few in the future," said Richards.   

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User comments : 14

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E-dward
not rated yet Oct 09, 2012
Nuclear fission scatters a lot of neutrinos. The Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan should pinpoint any nearby nuclear blast.
julianpenrod
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 09, 2012
Like the massive nuclear armaments proponents of Cold War hysteria insisted were in the Soviet Union, but, after its collapsed, were found not to exist. Like the banned weapons systems New World Order quislings said had to be in Iraq, because George W. Bush said so and he, purportedly, wouldn't destroy another nation and its people without reason, but which later proved not to be there. Alarms, threats, concerns, warnings, all seem to be lies. And even the "tangible" events seem nothing more than CIA/Mossad/MI-5 concocted shams to con the gullible, like the constant stream of failed attacks on American soil, using techniques that were foolproof everywhere else! To keep the gullible pliably frightened, but never to cast doubt on the ability of "security" to intercept all "threats". Note how this all comes out after Kim Jung Il is replaced in public view.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (6) Oct 09, 2012
Note, too, the U.S. not being a signatory to the test ban treaty. Along with the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court and the treaty against land mines. The refusal to become part of the International Criminal Court was the mealy mouthed "excuse" that military personnel might be captured on "humanitarian missions" and their actions "incorrectly" interpreted as violating human rights, so they would be hauled up to the court and potential secrets of the New World Order's planned enslavement of humanity revealed. This is for those who believe that arranging a Predator attack that slaughters a village of noncombatant men, women and children an "humanitarian act". The land mine ban was not signed by the U.S. because, as much as the U.S. might condemn other states that use them, the U.S. clandestinely uses them on a regular basis. The U.S. is a rogue superpower state, while those who don't denounce it are craven coward states.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (21) Oct 09, 2012
Like the massive nuclear armaments proponents of Cold War hysteria insisted were in the Soviet Union, but, after its collapsed, were found not to exist.
Well of course they existed you troll.
http://en.wikiped...iles.svg

-And much effort and expense is going into destroying them:
http://www.telegr...ons.html

-As your posts begin with bullshit it is safe to assume we can dismiss them in toto.
julianpenrod
2 / 5 (8) Oct 09, 2012
If you look at the chart TheGhostofOtto1923 endorses, you will see that it the suggested number of warheads on the graph do not agree with the numbers in the article itself. That and the patently not precise curve for the Soviet Union make the chart laughable and apparently only a con by right wing extremist New World Order shills to say what they want the gullible to believe. It is not surprising that a foul mouthed denier of the truth would invoke something as ludicrous as the chart to back up their "argument". And it still does not answer the fact that the levels of USSR armaments, which include conventional and unconventional weapons, claimed by New World Order war hawks were larger than that found when the Soviet Union fell. As always, an apparent grautuitous cheering section has given TheGhostofOtto1923 a dutiful rating of 5 out of 5 almost before the comment was placed.
VendicarD
not rated yet Oct 10, 2012
Because of Republican resistance, the U.S. even refuses to become a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human rights.

The world without America is a better world.

"Note, too, the U.S. not being a signatory to the test ban treaty." - Julian
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (4) Oct 11, 2012
Amererica and it's lackeys are just nazi christian scum, following the edicts of the zionist jew, and the Rothschild bank - which runs the Federal Reserve - a privately owned bank, which profiteers from murdering millions by the financing of wars of theft all over the planet.

The US military is just a puppet regime of jew gangstgers.

Lies to back up lies to manufacture propaganda.

Fuck them all.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (17) Oct 11, 2012
As always, an apparent grautuitous cheering section has given TheGhostofOtto1923 a dutiful rating of 5 out of 5 almost before the comment was placed.
Naw it was because I was obviously right and your diatribe was full of poop. Please counterpost links supporting this poop or STFU.
If you look at the chart TheGhostofOtto1923 endorses, you will see that it the suggested number of warheads on the graph do not agree with the numbers in the article itself
-And so we can safely conclude that none of them exist at all?
Like the massive nuclear armaments proponents of Cold War hysteria insisted were in the Soviet Union, but, after its collapsed, were found not to exist
-Is this really how your mind works Julian?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2012
Well of course they existed you troll.

You might want to search for
missile gap myth
http://en.wikiped...sile_gap

likewise you'll find information on
bomber gap myth
submarine gap myth
and similar

(or just search for "Gaither Comittee" from 1957, which provided the report for the basis of the US spending spree on offensive military hardware from then on based on VASTLY overblown number of russian capabilities)

Just to give you an idea of the magintude of the lies told at that time (and still believed today by some):
"Joseph Alsop even went so far as to describe "classified intelligence" as placing the Soviet missile count as high as 2,000 by 1953.

It is known today that even the CIA's estimate was too high; the actual number of ICBMs, even including interim-use prototypes, was 4"

The debunking of these gaps isn't new, BTW. It's been debunked 25 years ago.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (16) Oct 11, 2012
So AA it sounds like you are agreeing with Julian that
Like the massive nuclear armaments proponents of Cold War hysteria insisted were in the Soviet Union, but, after its collapsed, were found not to exist.
-the people who set off the tsar bombe and hundreds of others nevertheless had no nuclear arsenal?
http://en.wikiped...ns_tests

Extremism is a drug you know.

There is PLENTY of evidence from many disparate sources which give high confidence that north Korea has nukes.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (16) Oct 11, 2012
As I have said before, fissiles are the most important material that a civilization at our stage of development can possess. They enable us to operate underwater, underground, and in space. They provide a dependable energy source independent of regional instability.

Fissiles enable the protection of countries like Israel and south Africa from bring overrun. They are our last-ditch assurance that no nation can threaten the Stability and Progressthat this civilization has fought so hard for so long, to create. And they provide the only means with which to establish a permanent presence elsewhere in the solar system, thereby ensuring the survival of what may be the only intelligent species in the universe.

These are obviously (to most) extremely important Reasons to produce fissiles in great quantities. People around the world on both sides of the iron curtain needed an existential threat to justify the enormous expense. This alone explains exaggerations by all parties involved.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (16) Oct 11, 2012
So you were duped. Is that the reason for your petulant ideology? You don't think that has been handed to you as well?

You have been presented with all the evidence you need to understand that the main source of humanity's problems stem from their persistent propensity to overpopulate.

All of war is deception. And in a world where war is absolutely unavoidable, then in order to Manage war, all of peace must ALSO be deception.

You should expect to be duped. You should expect that the Dupers would not be duping only part of the population... that in order to be Effective they would be Creating and Manipulating both sides of the debate.

It's like the mob. They don't want to go to court unless they own the judge. Versteht? The only way to ensure the proper Outcome in any conflict you have to command both sides. This is as true in peace as it is in war.
antialias_physorg
2.7 / 5 (3) Oct 11, 2012
-the people who set off the tsar bombe and hundreds of others nevertheless had no nuclear arsenal?

They did. However the nuclear program of the Soviet Union was never an offensive one (they had next to no bombers and next to no missiles). They only had a passive deterrent.
This can also be seen in the makeup of their forces. No carriers, no ability to project forces far inland on foreign soil overseas. Almost no long range aerial capabilities (to this day). Russia never had an offensive military/navy/air force that could threaten anything but directly neighboring countries.

The US side, however, was playing the fear card (ruski invasion, aggression and whatnot). And since that worked so awesomely well in shunting funds to the military industrial complex they've been playing that card ever since (with varying imaginary enemies: Al kaida, Iran, Iraq, China, ... ).
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (16) Oct 12, 2012
US side, however, was playing the fear card
Again you are a sap for propaganda. Who broke the test ban treaty with 30 bombs? Who put missiles in Cuba? BOTH sides provided ample reason to fear the other. And then china joined in. How many soviet sub-launched missiles would it have taken to make the US regret it's non-investment in overwhelming superiority?

You also may not have considered unconventional delivery. Not publically discussed at the time, but obvious from our current perspective, was the real potential for nukes aboard ships in US harbors or carted across porous borders. This possibility made conventional delivery systems which could respond immediately to nuclear terrorism imperative.

But as I say it was all just a show. There never was a threat of nuclear war. Not because of weapons distribution but because the People in Charge of this world are not that stupid. The race was Fabricated to benefit civilization, not endanger it. And benefit it did, spectacularly.