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09 October 2006
North Korea claims nuclear test

By Joseph Bermudez Jr JDW Correspondent

Initial South Korean Ministry of Defence and National Intelligence Service reports indicated that a 3.58-3.7-magnitude blast was detected emanating from a North Korean nuclear test at 10.36 am local time (01:36 GMT). Subsequent reports from the US Geological Survey (USGS) place the magnitude of the tremor at 4.2 on the Richter scale. The difference in the reports is due to the fact that the USGS assessment, being somewhat later, was able to incorporate a larger number of sensor reports in its preparation.

The USGS data identifies the time and location of the blast as 9 October at 01:35:27 (GMT) and centred at 41.311—N, 129.114—E at a depth 0-1 km. This places the site approximately 42 km northwest of Kilchu, in the province of North Hamgyong, on the remote slopes of Mant'ap-san Mountain. This coincides with reports that first appeared during 2005 of suspicious tunnelling and construction activities in the area. Subsequent reports during the past month indicate that the North Koreans had excavated a 700 m-long horizontal tunnel under Mant'ap-san.

Although details are tentative, initial and unconfirmed South Korean reports indicate that the test was a fission device with a yield of .55 kT. By comparison the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima yielded approximately 12.5 kT. The figure of .55 kT, however, seems too low given the 4.2 register on the Richter scale. This could suggest - depending upon the geological make-up of the test site - a yield of 2-12 kT. If, however, the lower yield is correct, it would suggest that the test had been a "pre- or post-detonation" event (ie a failure), as it had been anticipated that North Korea's first nuclear test would have a significantly higher yield.

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© 2006 Jane's Information Group
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