That was then, this is now, part II

by on January 5, 2016 at 10:49 pm in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink

“Do I think they have the capacity to make a hydrogen bomb? I think that’s virtually impossible,” said Daniel Pinkston, an expert on North Korea’s nuclear weapons who is currently at Babes-Bolyai University in Romania.

…South Korean intelligence specialists also were skeptical and dismissed Kim’s words as rhetoric. “We don’t have any information that North Korea has developed an H-bomb,” Yonhap News Agency quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying. “We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb.”

That is from The Washington Post, December 10, 2015.  It remains to be seen, of course, whether the test actually was a hydrogen bomb.

1 Chip January 5, 2016 at 11:02 pm

“September 19, 2005: The participants in the six-party talks conclude a joint statement of principles to guide future negotiations. According to the statement, North Korea commits “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.”

Fortunately, Iran has, like, triple promised to suspend their program.

2 Mofo. January 5, 2016 at 11:03 pm

I don’t think they even have an A-bomb

3 prior_test January 6, 2016 at 12:11 am

The best consensus is ‘sort of’ – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_weapons_tests_of_North_Korea

The yields are a joke, and the first test was likely not exactly successful.

And for fun, here is a note from the totals section of that article – ‘Total country yield is 0.0% of all nuclear testing.’

North Korea is literally not even a blip on the nuclear testing radar screen. And may have an amount of chemical weapons available measured in tons that equals any of these tests. Which the North Koreas are undoubtedly capable of delivering reliably to targets like Seoul.

4 dan1111 January 6, 2016 at 7:11 am

Their largest blast was 7 kt, roughly 1/3 the strength of the original atomic test (and the bombs dropped on Japan).

This is small for an atomic test, but creating an explosion equivalent to 7,000 tons of TNT is not exactly a “joke”.

5 Brickbats and Adiabats January 6, 2016 at 7:14 am

We also don’t know how efficient their bomb was. It’s actually likely that it was extremely inefficient and that North Korea doesn’t have the technical sophistication to make a bigger weapon.

6 MOFO. January 6, 2016 at 8:41 am

Thats the first im hearing that it was even that powerful. I always heard .5KT. Not that i dont believe you, but do you have a source that i can read up on?

7 prior_test January 6, 2016 at 12:17 pm

‘but creating an explosion equivalent to 7,000 tons of TNT is not exactly a “joke”.’

No, but if the North Koreans can’t deliver an artillery barrage with Seoul as the target that can do this in less than 24 hours (with a much larger radius of destruction and using artillery in protected positions, along with a possible chemical attack at the same time involving tens to hundreds of tons), then they have grown really incompetent, compared to their Soviet sponsored past.

8 Hasdrubal January 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm

1.) They can’t hit Tokyo with an artillery barrage, but they probably can with a nuke.

2.) There is a psychological impact from nuclear weapons that conventional weapons don’t have: The firebombing of Tokyo killed more people than Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but it was the latter that shocked the Japanese into submission. The former just strengthened their resolve. (I don’t know where chemical weapons fit on that scale, if they blanked Seoul in nerve gas, would it be a Hiroshima or a Dresden?)

Nuclear weapons have a political and psychological impact beyond their yield.

9 JWatts January 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm

According to wiki, today’s test was actually 10kt. So, 50% bigger than the 7kt test from 3 years ago.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_weapons_tests_of_North_Korea

10 Brickbats and Adiabats January 6, 2016 at 7:12 am

They do. We detected radioactive xenon and krypton concentrations in the atmosphere that spiked following their claimed test. You don’t get those emissions from just blowing up a bunch of uranium or plutonium; there has to be actual fission going on. As prior_test notes, though, that doesn’t mean their fission bomb was any good. I’m not familiar with the detection protocols for fusion bombs as opposed to fission ones (I expect it would be looking at helium-3, but I’m not sure), but I expect within about a month or so we’ll be able to confirm if it was nuclear fission, successful nuclear fusion, or a “fizzle.”

11 Typical Hindenburg January 5, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Come on! Let’s give North Korea some credit, guys! It is well within their capability to make a bomb out of a canister of hydrogen gas and a fuse.

12 LR January 5, 2016 at 11:46 pm

“With regard to the problem of the Sudeten Germans, my patience is now at an end!”
–Adolf Hitler

In speech at Berlin Sportpalast September 1938

13 mkt42 January 6, 2016 at 1:59 am

The question of whether they have an H-bomb is almost irrelevant. The more important question is whether they have an A-bomb, which they might, and which they wouldn’t be overly averse to using.

Sure A-bombs are less destructive, but a single one can still kill tens of thousands of people.

14 Lord Action January 6, 2016 at 9:38 am

A more relevant question (for me anyway) is “How much does the thing weigh?”

A 500 pound A-bomb is a much bigger concern to me than a 20,000 pound H-bomb.

15 Urstoff January 6, 2016 at 9:37 am

Shouldn’t technology that was developed in the 1950’s be pretty easy to replicate these days? Maybe governments are better at keeping secrets than I thought they were.

16 too hot for MR January 6, 2016 at 10:36 am

Good example of O-ring theory, I’d say. Even in the 50s, the US had thousands of brilliant and well funded people to pull this stuff off. No day-to-day fears of execution, etc.

The moon landing was said to have been accomplished with less computing power than a single x386 chip, but nobody would think N. Korea capable of that feat at the moment.

17 Albigensian January 6, 2016 at 10:23 am

I think the speculation is over whether this is a boosted fission weapon (which includes a fusion component) as opposed to a true 2-stage thermonuclear device ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boosted_fission_weapon ).

Perhaps the question is strategically irrelevant ( as even a small, inefficient nuclear device detonating in a U.S. port would be a huge event ), yet if N. Korea has built even an unwieldy true thermonuclear bomb that would indicate they’re well along the path toward developing deliverable weapons.

18 Agra Brum January 6, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Of course they don’t have a hydrogen bomb. The first atom bomb test in the US had a yield of 20 kilotons; Little Boy had 13 kilotons, and Fat Man had 21 kilotons.
North Korea managed just 7 kilotons, maybe. So weaker than a pretty weak non-hydrogen bomb.
The first US hydrogen bomb test had a yield of 10,400 kilotons – almost 1500 times stronger than the North Korean test. Even the miniaturized hydrogen warheads developed by the US for sub-missiles have 600 KT yields.

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