Experts were wrong, North Korea could have an H-bomb

Hydrogen bomb
Support us and go ad-free

On 6 January, North Korea claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb – a claim that the US dismissed as being untrue, as the evidence they collected didn’t support it. But after looking more closely, officials now say there “may have been a partial, failed test of some type of components associated with a hydrogen bomb.”

How could they have missed this the first time round?

First of all, it seems the test was conducted much deeper underground than previously thought. According to CNN:

The test was conducted more than two times deeper underground than originally assessed – at a depth consistent with what might be needed for a hydrogen bomb.

Thermonuclear weapons like the hydrogen bomb are tested deep underground to prevent radioactive materials from reaching the atmosphere. When a bomb is detonated underground, there is a massive shock wave that can be measured using the same sort of equipment that measures earthquakes.

One reason US officials dismissed North Korea’s claims was that the shock wave wasn’t as big as they had expected. The depth could have affected this, but it could also be because only components of a hydrogen bomb, rather than a complete bomb, were tested. As CNN reports:

the size of the seismic event and other intelligence indicates it was not likely a fully functioning device. The official said it’s possible the North Koreans believe they conducted a full hydrogen bomb test, but the U.S. believes it was likely only some components, perhaps a detonator, that exploded.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
Teller-Ulam device
The Teller-Ulam design for hydrogen bombs. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Almost all the nuclear weapons developed today use the Teller–Ulam design. In this design, a primary explosive sets off a more powerful secondary explosive in a chain reaction. The force of the explosion comes from nuclear fission – atoms splitting.

Each part of the bomb needs to be tested, so it’s possible that a single component was tested in North Korea earlier this year.

Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at policy thinktank RAND, has another theory: he believes the country may be testing a precursor to the hydrogen bomb. He wrote on CNN’s website:

En route to the development of fusion weapons, some countries develop so-called ‘boosted’ weapons, which use a small amount of fusion to boost the fission process, causing more large atoms to fission and thus releasing more energy – initially, perhaps a weapon of 50 kilotons or so. Because some fusion is involved in such a weapon, Kim may be claiming that he has achieved a hydrogen bomb when in practice he only has a boosted weapon.

But even if it is “only” a boosted weapon, it could still cause significant damage – such a weapon could kill 2.5% of the people in a densely populated city. At a megaton, a hydrogen bomb would be 20 times as powerful.

Whatever it was, it appears North Korea did test a weapon – or at least parts of one – underground on 6 January. Either way, North Korea is sending a message to the world, that it’s armed and ready to deploy.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons/Wikimedia Commons

 

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed