October 10, 2006


U.S. doubts Korean test was nuclear (Bill Gertz, 10/10/06,

U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast's readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2006 7:38 AM

Oh boy. North Korea, with its record of civility and truthfulness, says it detonated a nuclear blast. U.S. Intelligence, with its record of competence and loyalty, says "on condition of anonymity" that they didn't.

It's a great day to be a conspiracy theorist.

Posted by: Peter B at October 10, 2006 8:18 AM

Well said Peter. You and I have no clue what actually happened. Worse, one suspects the President doesn't either.

Posted by: curt at October 10, 2006 10:01 AM

Ammonia Nitrate. Piles and piles of the stuff.

Posted by: jefferson park at October 10, 2006 10:41 AM

20 million NorKs jumping up and down in unison.

Meanwhile in Washington, 20,000 CIA analysts scratch their heads in unison.

Posted by: lebeaux at October 10, 2006 12:21 PM

But seriously, the US has over 50 years of intense experience with stockpile stewardship (nuclear testing). We know the precise details of every aspect of a detonation, whether it is large, small, sub-critical, or a fizzle. It looks like the NorK test didn't initiate a chain reaction, i.e. failure. With a gun-type design that is really spectacularly incompetent. The gun-type design is so sure-fire that the US didn't even test it before using it on Japan. We did test implosion-type design at trinity. Apparently beating and starving your scientists doesn't make them smarter... go figure.

Posted by: lebeaux at October 10, 2006 12:32 PM

The gun-type of bomb (Little Boy) uses U235, which is relatively hard to get. It requires separation from U238 in huge cascades of centrifuges.

Plutonium is a lot easier to get (nuke plants generate it by the ton), but a bomb is harder to design. It requires an implosion with very carefully laid explosive charges to create a "lens" that hits the Pu shell at just the right force and velocity (Fat Man). If the lens is even slightly misaligned you get a fizzle.

Iran is currently building the centrifuges for separating U235. Much more dangerous because (as you indicated) any idiot can blow up a U235 bomb.

Posted by: Gideon at October 10, 2006 1:40 PM


And ammonium nitrate is fertilizer! Just think of it, hundreds of tons of that blown up inside a mountain in a country undergoing full-scale famine... the mind boggles.

Posted by: Mike Earl at October 10, 2006 1:58 PM

"It looks like the NorK test didn't initiate a chain reaction, i.e. failure."

"White House spokesman Tony Snow said today it would take more time, possibly days, to come to a conclusion, and that there was a "remote possibility that we'll never know."

Posted by: curt at October 10, 2006 2:13 PM