NoKo Nuke Test only Partial Blast

Now we’re hearing that US intelligence thinks NoKo’s test was nuclear but only a partial blast:

Four days after North Korea tried to set off its first nuclear bomb, U.S. intelligence agencies think the blast detected by seismic sensors was a plutonium-fueled device that did not fully explode.

“The working assumption is that what happened, more likely than not, was an attempted nuclear test that fell far short of being successful,” said one U.S. official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment.

There is still no confirmation that North Korea succeeded in creating a nuclear explosion, and so far no radioactive particles that would confirm a successful nuclear test have been detected. The Washington Times first reported Tuesday that U.S. officials were having doubts, based on preliminary data, about North Korea’s boasts about having successfully tested its first nuclear device.

The latest intelligence estimates of Monday’s test at a nuclear test site near Kilju, in northeastern North Korea, put the size of the blast at 0.2 kilotons, or the equivalent of 200 tons of TNT. A plutonium-fueled nuclear device normally creates a much larger blast, in the range of 5 kilotons to 20 kilotons. A kiloton is the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

The detected explosion likely was produced by the conventional high-explosives used to split the plutonium atoms and produce a nuclear explosion, one official said. A second official said, “There was a yield that was in the several hundred ton range, but it at least partially failed.”

Complete analysis of the data could take weeks, the officials said.

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  1. 914 October 13, 2006
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