Imagery Of North Korean Test Site

| October 9, 2006

First off – All of this information is from the New York Times and Google Earth (That’s so no one gets up in arms about me posting this kind of stuff here).

Below is an an overview of the test site area in the North East part of North Korea. The nearest populated place is a village called P’unggye-yok.

Overview of Test Area

At the south end are a set of buildings for housing the VIPs who were likely on hand to witness the test shot. This includes what looks like a rail head and a helo pad.

In the middle area is the tunnel entrance and a set of buildings that are likely used to shelter the equipment for digging and modifying the tunnel for the test as well as for housing the scientific equipment for montioring the output of the device and setting it off.

At the top is the area (below the ground) where the device detonated within the tunnel.

North Korean Shot Tunnel

This is a detail view of the area with the entrance to the shot tunnel. Clearly some earth works and tailings can be seen in the top rectangle. Given the imagery available on Google Earth, this would seem to be the biggest sideways hole in the ground near where it went off.

The suggestion that this is the mouth of the shot tunnel is further supported by the large number of buildings (better maintained than average for North Korea too) just to the south east. These likely house equipment related to the tunnel modifications, and for monitoring the output of the test device.

Oct 9th, 10:20 AM Pacific – Update

Wikipedia now as a page up where they are tracking information about the test. Wikipedia NORK Nuke Page There is a group of folks on the web who are claiming the test was probably a dud. Given the Mag 4.2 shake it produced I would think that the detonation was a bit above “dud” level. More information will be available later in the week in the public, but there is probably a pretty good idea of what happened in the intelligence community.

Oct 9th, 12:20 PM Pacific – Update

There seems to be some consenus from the armchair intel people that this test may have been a fizzle. One of the tricks with using Plutonium as the fuel for your nuke is that you have to build an implosion weapon, which requires some degree of precision in construction and in detonation. The Plutonium is machined into separate pieces which are kept apart from each other until the moment of detonation. This is to keep any one mass of Plutonium below the size at which the fission becomes “critical”.

Once you set off the conventional high explosives, these pieces of plutonium are smashed together with tremendous force, causing the chain reaction. If the high explosives do not work correctly and at the right times, or your Plutonium metal is not the right size and shape, or has too many impurities, the whole thing will fizzle out before a good self sustaining burn begins. This is the suggestion that is floating around the internet right now, that the North Koreans failed their first test shot.

Ref: A BOMB OR A DUD?
Ref: Dropping the F-Bomb on the NORKS

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Category: Geopolitics, Main, Military

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

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  1. North Korea’s Second Nuclear Test | And Still I Persist | May 25, 2009
  1. bjou says:

    If someone likes to have a kmz-file for Google Earth with all the information above, grab it here:

    http://bjou.homeunix.net/blog/2006/10/nord-koreas-atombombentest-in-google-earth/

    It is blogged in german, the download is at the bottom of the post

  2. bhenderson says:

    Thanks for the KML link, there are several places that do a great job of going into more detail on the topic. I can also highly recommend:

    http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/

    At present this guy (who is much smarter than I am on the topic) is declaring the test a dud. I am not so sure given that the geology is somewhat different than the US Nevada Test Site (NTS) and given previous data (on the web) of what size nuke = what magnitude shock. If it is true that this was a dud, that would be amazing news. To be honest, making a plutonium weapon is fairly simple, just get enough mass in several pieces and compress it into a critical mass within a small time window, and you are set.