North Korea's 2009 Nuclear Test: Containment, Monitoring, Implications
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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On May 25, 2009, North Korea announced that it had conducted its second underground nuclear test. Unlike its first test, in 2006, there is no public record that the second one released radioactive materials indicative of a nuclear explosion. How could North Korea have contained these materials from the May 2009 event and what are the implications The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty establishes a verification mechanism, including an International Monitoring System IMS to detect nuclear tests. Three IMS technologies detect waves that pass through the oceans hydroacoustic, Earth seismic, or atmosphere infrasound a fourth detects radioactive material from a nuclear test. Scientists concur that only the latter proves that an explosion was nuclear. Some believe that deep burial and other means can contain radioactive effluents. Another view is that containment is an art as much as a science. The United States learned to improve containment over several decades. Yet by one estimate, North Korea contained over 99.9 of the radioactive effluents from its 2009 test. It might have done so by application of lessons learned from its 2006 test or the U.S. nuclear test experience, use of a higher-yield device, release of material below the detection threshold, good luck, or some combination. Alternatively, the 2009 event may have been a nonnuclear explosion designed to simulate a nuclear test. Containment could be of value to North Korea.
- Government and Political Science
- Radioactivity, Radioactive Wastes and Fission Products
- Nuclear Weapons