Monday, October 09, 2006

Was North Korea testing a suitcase nuke?

The US has detected a second subkiloton nuclear blast on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Australian, in what is labed "breaking news".

From correspondents in Washington October 10, 2006 US intelligence has detected an explosion of less than one kilotonne in magnitude in North Korea but has not been able to determine whether it was nuclear or not, a senior intelligence official said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that first-time nuclear tests historically have been in the several kilotonne range.

“We are aware that there was a sub-kilotonne explosion in North Korea,” said the official. “We have not been able to determine at this point whether it was in fact nuclear.”

Apart from this original article, I have not found any second confirmation of a second subkiloton blast. So the original article must now be considered suspect. Still the discussion below on suitcase nukes is probably still worthwhile. Both the pros and the cons are fully presented in the discussion and reader comments, which includes the personal reminiscences of a reader present at a Davy Crockett tactical nuclear weapons live test.


The small size of the detonations has led to speculation that the North Korean tests are really "faked" nukes using large quantities of convention munitions. Chester explores the logic and arguments behind this theory without necessarily subscribing to it. However, there is another possibility. Kim Jong Il is testing suitcase nukes. The probable design heritage of a North Korean suitcase nuke would probably be Russian. Here's some of the little that is known about such weapons. The disturbing them about them is that they were rated at one kiloton, very close to the measured North Korean yield.

On 7 September 1997, the CBS newsmagazine Sixty Minutes broadcast an alarming story in which former Russian National Security Adviser Aleksandr Lebed claimed that the Russian military had lost track of more than 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, any one of which could kill up to 100,000 people.

"I'm saying that more than a hundred weapons out of the supposed number of 250 are not under the control of the armed forces of Russia," Lebed said in the interview. "I don't know their location. I don't know whether they have been destroyed or whether they are stored or whether they've been sold or stolen, I don't know."

Asked if it were possible that the authorities did know where all the weapons were and simply did not want to tell Lebed, he said, "No."

During May 1997 Lebed said at a private briefing to a delegation of U.S. congressmen that he believed 84 of the one-kiloton bombs were unaccounted for. In the interview with 60 Minutes, conducted in late August, Lebed said he now believed the figure to be more than 100.

The Center for Nonproliferation Studies, in its examination of the suitcase nuke issue substantially concurs about the range of the yield.

Sifting through available evidence, one can conclude that if such devices existed, they likely had the following characteristics:

* Small size (60x40x20 cm) and relatively light weight (probably upward of 30 kg). These parameters are generally consistent with available information about Soviet 152-mm artillery shells, as well as with the U.S. SADM. * Low yield (less than 1 kt, maybe as low as 0.1 kt). * Remained under control of the 12th GUMO (the Main Department at MOD in charge of handling all nuclear devices), were kept at or near MOD Special Forces (Spetsnaz) bases, as well as at central storage facilities, and were intended for transfer to Spetsnaz at short notice. * Short life span between scheduled maintenance. According to the chief of the 12th GUMO, Igor Valynkin, small munitions required replacement of components every several months (other sources mentioned six months). Valynkin's statement is the most direct corroboration of the allegations about the existence of portable nuclear devices. Stationary nuclear mines with such a short warranty period simply did not make sense, while portable devices for use behind enemy lines could still be acceptable. * Were likely equipped with reasonably sophisticated permissive action links (PALs), which should preclude unauthorized use. Also, there is unconfirmed information that some small nuclear devices (munitions for 152-mm howitzers) were kept during peacetime in "half-assembled" state, i.e., parts were kept separately, although quick assembly in the case of war was possible.

Curiously, the Russians are now circulating the absurd claim that the device was actually much more powerful than measured. Breitbart/AP says:

Russia's defense minister said Monday that North Korea's nuclear blast was equivalent to 5,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT. That would be far greater than the force given by South Korea's geological institute, which estimated it at just 550 tons of TNT.

However this is unlikely since other geological surves, including the USCGS have put the North Korean yield in the same low order of magnitude. Finally we should recall the dramatic conversation of Vladmir Putin with Nathan Sharansky at the Kremlin as reported in the LA Times and discussed at the Belmont Club.

"Imagine a sunny and beautiful day in a suburb of Manhattan," he [Putin] said. "An elderly man is tending to the roses in his small garden with his nephew visiting from Europe. Life seems perfectly normal. The following day, the nephew, carrying a suitcase, takes a train to Manhattan. Inside the suitcase is a nuclear bomb."

The threat, Putin explained to me a year before 9/11, was not from this or that country but from their terrorist proxies — aided and supported quietly by a sovereign state that doesn't want to get its hands dirty — who will perpetrate their attacks without a return address. This scenario became real when Al Qaeda plotted its 9/11 attacks from within Afghanistan and received support from the Taliban government. Then it happened again this summer, when Iran was allowed to wage a proxy war through Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

Update

Richard Miniter wrote an article in the Opinion Journal called Baggage Claim: The myth of the suitcase nukes. In it he notes that Lebed was an unreliable witness in addition to making a number of arguments against the plausible danger of the suitcase nuke.

Nearly everything Lebed told visiting congressmen and "60 Minutes" was later contradicted, sometimes by Lebed himself. In subsequent news accounts, he said 41 bombs were missing, at other times he pegged the number at 52 or 62, 84 or even 100. When asked about this disparity, he told the Washington Post that he "did not have time to find out how many such weapons there were." If this sounds breezy or cavalier, that is because it is.

Indeed, Lebed never seemed to have made a serious investigation at all. A Russian official later pointed out that Lebed never visited the facility that houses all of Russia's nuclear weapons or met with its staff. And Lebed--who died in a plane crash in 2002--had a history of telling tall tales.

Donald Sensing for his part, argues that it is far too early to dismiss North Korea's efforts as a dud at his post in One Hand Clapping.

Using the US Geological Survey figure of 4.2 magnitude body wave of the seismic shock, giving a 1 KT achieved yield, actually buttresses the case that this test was not a fizzle, in my view. For battlefield purposes, say, against the South Korean or US forces on the peninsula, a 1 KT device is more usable than a 20 KT bomb. A 1 KT weapon is smaller, thus easier to conceal, and can be designed to be fired from existing artillery pieces, whether cannons or rockets. A Nagasaki-yield weapon would be of little military utility in fighting against South Korea or American forces. And you much more easily can get from a tested 0.6-1.0 KT proof-of-concept device to a usable terror weapon of the same yield, than from a test of a much larger yielding device. DefenseTech concludes the test was a “dud.” I think it’s far too soon to be laughing aloud at Kimmy boy, myself.

Austin Bay thinks the Nokors might not have the technology to engineer a small warhead. "Such a small boom means this could have been a failed test (they wanted a larger explosion). I doubt the NoKos have the sophistication to produce a small, efficient 'low yield' nuclear weapon."

I think its important in this discussion, not to confuse the a 'low yield' from a small amount of fissile material with the miniaturization of components required to create a suitcase weapon. I know that RAND has just published a study describing the delivery of a terrorist bomb by ship to a US port -- a kind of shipcase weapon. So I think that the issue requires quite a bit of attention which I hope will be forthcoming in the next few days.

Also, Thomas Holsinger writes to say that he doesn't think it is a suitcase nuke, but a development of a "missile-ready plutonium implosion-type weapon" from the AQ Khan catalogue of nasty things an aspiring dictator may want for his birthday. He's preparing a long article soon to appear at Winds of Change.

Opfor links to this discussion and likes this bit. "I think its important in this discussion, not to confuse the a 'low yield' from a small amount of fissile material with the miniaturization of components required to create a suitcase weapon. I know that RAND has just published a study describing the delivery of a terrorist bomb by ship to a US port -- a kind of shipcase weapon. So I think that the issue requires quite a bit of attention which I hope will be forthcoming in the next few days." But Opfor thinks that the North Koreans are going for the big bang. They're just working on it.

Bingo. The idea of the Norks creating some sort of suitcase bomb is absurd. They don't have the technology and it's not what they want. In fact, they can't even miniaturize to achieve a somewhat easier goal, mating a bomb to a working missile. And they want that bomb to yield large, not small, results.

North Korea wants a weapon that can knock out Hawaii, or Anchorage, or LA, so that they can have a free hand in attacking the South. It's an offshoot of the old chicom doctrine, "defending Taiwan isn't worth Los Angeles." People are confusing the Nork ideology with that of jihadists. Islamists want a bomb to generate damage, destruction, and casaulties. Their goal is chaos. The North's goal is Seoul.

As for the TNT hypothesis, let's put that one to bed right now. It is science fiction to think that the Norks can slip hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of TNT into a single entry mine shaft withour our spy sats detecting the activity. Remember it was those space assets that blew the whistle on the North's nuke operation in the first place.

Kim Jong Il is going to keep at this until he gets it right. Once he can credibly threaten the US with the proper bomb + delivery system, he'll adapt a far more aggressive posturing. And that's when things will get interesting.

Of course the idea that the Nokors are "working" on the city-killer raises issues of its own. If this is true, the longer America waits for Kim to set up the worse its position becomes. It's in some sense analogous to waiting for a hostile who has just had a misfire clear his weapon and reload -- except this time with a .458 Weatherby Magnum in place of .22 short.

One of the more interesting discussions I remember from my time at school was whether an attack by a small nuke would "cross the threshold". This was especially true when small nukes were employed at sea, such as during a naval engagement. One school of thought was that sufficiently small nukes were actually usable weapons, weapons which would not initiate an uncontrollable Doomsday exchange. But there were those who opposed such weapons because they would create ambiguous strategic situations. That was one of the objections to 1980s-era Enhanced Radation Weapons; the so-called Neutron Bomb. But the return of the small nuke concept has also been bruited in relation to the Nuclear Bunker Busters, which may be required by the US to take out deeply buried bunkers. But if the enemy were to possess small nuclear weapons, even if these were really truck-sized devices with only a small fissile payload, they would still create huge strategic problems. For example, if a nuke in the yield size of .8 KT were detonated in Manhattan would that be enough to precipitate an all-out retaliation against the usual suspects? Arguably not. One thing is certain. A nuclear attack with a small device would complicate any response, because to point out the obvious, it would not be destructive enough to generate an automatic response, in the same way a NORAD detection of thousands of inbound warheads would. So, for my part, I would be worried if the Nokors were developing a small weapon, whether it was miniaturized or not.

58 Comments:

Blogger skipsailing said...

hmmm, I hesitate to ascribe rational motives to the hermit king of the hermit kingdom but:

given the abject failure of his delivery system and long lead times to "weaponize" a nuclear device,

plus his desire to throw absolutely the best tantrum possible,

It would seem to me that a small test would have greater effect than a large test.

Testing a large device that cannot be effectively delivered would only serve to confirm the status quo ante: N. Korea had 'devices' but no rockets or other ability to transport them to thier intended target.

this demonstration then would only serve as the scent of coffee for a region that is waking up to the danger.

but testing, or faking the testing, of a small device plays the "terror" card quite well.

Perhaps this is Korean shorthand for "I may not have ballistic missles but I can strike you anyway!"

10/09/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...

I once read an excerpt somewhere of the book "Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror." One of the chapters attempts to prove that Alexandr Lebed was lying or exaggerating. It attempts to show that not that many suitcase nukes were produced and that the fear of Russia having lost control of so many is unreasonable. I don't have a copy and cannot find the excerpt but it would be interesting to re-read his arguments now.

10/09/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...

Others may have access to Minter's book.

10/09/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

About 2-3 years ago, there was a massive explosion in a train station in NW North Korea. Officially, 3K were killed in the explosion resulting from a collision with a LNG train from China. At the time, there were reports that satellite images indicated a much greater death toll and damage extent, suggesting the train might have been carrying military explosives. If they faked the nuclear detonation(s), they would have been stockpiling explosives for some time. Just conjecturing.

10/09/2006 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Econ-Scott said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10/09/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Econ-Scott said...

"Suit Case" nukes are an interesting hypothesis - really useless to Kim Il nutcase in the Extortion rackets unless he can prove he has them, and without a doubt they are Nuk-u-lar and they work reliably.

I've complained and hypothesized about Kim or a Mullahthuggocracy threatening a worldwide economic collapse in the Extortion rackets (Complained for five years) based on Kim Il Nutcase creating some nice fresh "Used Datsun Pickup truck" nuk-u-lar bombs
giving them to Al Q or their clone (have fun stormin' the democracies boys, and you didn't get 'em from us ) ...
... delivered Nuke blasts simultaneously in 5 to 10 large financial center cities/ and or port cities.

Would likely create an Economic Depression, Chaos, restacking the world deck;

and LOTS of leverage in the extortion rackets, Why ? not that we couldn't retaliate easily enough after the perps are clearly I.D.'d

But the world powers are on two short leashes,

1) unprecedented world wide debt in a globalized economy and payment system,

Probably less than 6 months worldwide grain reserves.

Nobody really can afford that kind of fallout, radiation, one season nuclear winter, lost growing season etc. etc.

Unless they have alot of stored food and fuel.

Only the Mullahs, the Russian elites, and perhaps the U.S. political elites have that (aside from Utah residents)

Economic and food crisis from the economic disruption and thousand dirty little wars that simultaneous small nuke attacks would cost.

The perps are looking to create chaos, NORKS & Mullahs.

And that would do it.

10/09/2006 02:46:02 PM
Delete

10/09/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Kazinski said...

The silver lining to all this is that these postulated suitcase nukes have only a 6 month shelf life.

10/09/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

My first thought when hearing of a small yield weapon was that it would be just the right size to fit onto a Taepodong missile.

They have very, very limited delivery capabilities. Their Air Force could be taken out by what we display at the annual Andrews AFB Airshow. In fact it probably could be taken out by what the EAA shows at Oshkosh.

But with missiles, they can do it - all the way to the USA. More than just saber rattling. And they can sell both missiles (already have been for years) and warheads. To Iran - and to people scared of Iran. Or, to say, Venzeuala.

Militarily, not so impressive. But when you are dealing with people who think that Mark Foley is an example of the biggest concern around....

It all fits.

10/09/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger tim maguire said...

What if the "small" explosion was not a test, but an accidental explosion? Is that at all a possibility?

10/09/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The W54 warhead used on the Davy Crockett weighed just 51 pounds and was the smallest and lightest fission bomb (implosion type) ever deployed by the United States, with a variable explosive yield of 0.01 kilotons (equivalent to 10 tons of TNT, or two to four times as powerful as the ammonium nitrate bomb which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995), or 0.02 kilotons-1 kiloton. A 58.6 pound variant the B54 was used in the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), a nuclear land mine deployed in Europe, South Korea, Guam, and the United States from 1964-1989.
micro nukes & delivery system, forty year old technology.

here is a photo of a "duffle bag" nuke. "...It was fired by a mechanical timer and had a variable yield ("dial-a-yield") equivalent to between 10 tons and 1 kiloton of TNT. 300 SADMs were assembled and remained in the US arsenal until 1989.

10/09/2006 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Desert rat: Once talked to someone who worked on the Davy Crockett. You know it was to be fired from Jeeps!

He explained that the range was about "x".

And the kill radius was about "2X".

I.e, a nuclear exchange in a phone booth.

10/09/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Robert Kaplan up next on Hewitt
http://www2.krla870.com/listen/

10/09/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Muzzies would love Davey Crocket.
At least the leaders would love to watch, and the dupes would get their raisins.

10/09/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Jihadis"

10/09/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Agreed, rwe, check the photos at the links, the jeeps are there.

In any case these were fission weapons of low wieght and yield, not all that difficult to develop, the technology is over 50 years old.

A bigger terrorist worry than a 4,000 pd bomb.

10/09/2006 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

So, if Mr Kim wanted an effective weapon to sell, or desired to fake the event with chicken shit and an accelerator, what size weapon would be practicle?

The idea that a .4 kiloton blast was a "misfire" is not serious.

10/09/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Suitcase nukes don't exist...Richard Miniter said so and that settles it. So dose Dean Barnett.

Course a few people say both of those folks are engaging in two usually fatal pastimes. Underestimating and misunderstanding your enemy. Neither Saddam nor Kim El Crazy or any other of the maniacs we are fighting want to deliver any of the crap they are inventing with a barely accurate missile that we might be able to shoot down. Hell why do that when they have a proven delivery system that is 100% accurate if undetected? Human delivery.

After all its not NKorea is flush with cash...just sell some little old suitcase nukes to some maniacs and sit back and watch the fireworks. After a few go off in the United States we won't be in any shape to retaliate besides which it will take us five years to decide who to retaliate against. Can see all the leaks now from unnamed CIA sources calling Bush crazy for wanting to nuke Nko when we have no absolutely positive proof.

10/09/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Woman Catholic said...

After a few go off in the United States we won't be in any shape to retaliate besides which it will take us five years to decide who to retaliate against.

The US has a three-pronged retaliation scheme: Subs, ICBMs, and bombers. An enemy has to take out this entire "triad" to avoid instant retaliation. And if we get hit, we turn into Michael Corleone and settle all the outstanding family debts in one day, just like in that famous baptism scene.

10/09/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Japan and others are "sniffing" the air for radiation. The characteristics of which will be useful in determining the means and methods and a very interesting spectroanalysis that will be useful for determining the orgin of nuke blast X in Peoria. The problem here is the old nutshell game. If there is enough proliferation, nukes that came from Pakistan probably means a retaliation against Pakistan and there are some nut jobs in Pakistan that would like to see that happen... Allah's will don't you know.

10/09/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I hope this is not true--because what would be the purpose of such a small nuke other than blackmail or terrorism? It is not a strategic weapon, merely intended to guarantee no attacks against the NoKos. It is an offensive weapon.

10/09/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

The US has a three-pronged retaliation scheme: Subs, ICBMs, and bombers. An enemy has to take out this entire "triad" to avoid instant retaliation. And if we get hit, we turn into Michael Corleone and settle all the outstanding family debts in one day, just like in that famous baptism scene

hehe...Yea we have lots of wonderful weapons and incredibly well trained soldiers and zero will power to use such weapons. See this evidenced in the fact that even though 3,000 of us were cold bloodedly murdered by a thug who had declared war on us years prior and even that was not enough to have President Bush increase military spending to a level that would match the midpoint of Clintons spending and I am no Clinton fan. No it was more important to fund "Leave no child behind" more important to fund "Prescription Drug Benefit" more important to sign McCain~Feingold more important to fritter away valuable time doing the kabuki dance with the UN instead of taking Saddam out poste haste...no sorry we have weapons and no will which is just about the most dangerous position to be in. Since those who are enemies of civilization look towards our weapons and see a threat. So we will get hit even though it is evident that we are not serious about taking the war to those who threaten us.

You can be absolutely certain that none of this shit would be happening if we had 20 Divisions standing fully equipped and had demonstrated the ability to strike like lightening against threats. Instead we send soldiers back again and again into a meat grinder trying to bring democracy to a culture that doesn't want it.

No I voted for President Bush and would again given the field that has been availible but that doesn't mean he is doing the right things. We should be spending right around 6% of our GDP on the Military. We should have at least 15 divisions and a 300 ship fleet.

I explained my idea fairly well in this much longer post.

Secrecy and Stealth, fighting ghosts with rules and September 11, 2001"

10/09/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

A blast from the past.

Jimmy Carter convinced Nokor would not test nukes in 1994: "Carter: What the North Koreans were waiting for was some treatment of their exalted leader with respect and a direct communication. I didn't have to argue with him. When I outlined the specific points that were the Clinton administration's position, I presented them to him. And with very little equivocation, he agreed. I think it's all roses now" Q:Are you absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are going to honour this agreement, that while talks are going on that it's not just a matter of buying time on the part of the North Koreans, that they will not secretly pursue the nuclear program they were pushing earlier? Carter: I'm convinced."

10/09/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger GaryS said...

I was present during a live test firing of the Davy Crockett in the 1960s. It was the only live test, as far as I am aware. Lots and lots of DOD and military brass preseent. Two star generals had to get their own coffee.

My location was 1500 meters from ground zero, but there were other troops within 1000 meters. The explosion created a perfect little mushroom cloud. The troops participating in the associated exercise went within 500 meters or so of "ground zero" within 30 to 60 minutes. I would strongly believe that the yield had been dialed down, since the explosion was not all that impressive. However, the Army did lose a fair amount of equipment, including a few tanks, to radioactivity (they were NOT happy about that).

I saw the actual projectile, which was not much longer than a football, longer and with guidance fins but somewhat smaller in diameter. I can't vouch for the weight but I doubt that it was more than 50 - 60 pounds.

It seems to me that one of these things would almost fit in a standard 5" briefcase, certainly in a small suitcase. Not a pleasant thought for someone who lives in LA.

10/09/2006 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger GaryS said...

OK, looking at the declassified images, I see that my memory of what I witnessed 45 years ago was a bit off. I was 20 feet from the thing, and I still don't remember it being as big as shown in the images. Mea culpa!

So make it a medium sized suitcase.

10/09/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"The explosion created a perfect little mushroom cloud."
---
Well isn't that special!

10/09/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Some technical commentary on seismic wave components and things you can do distort the blast signature.

Difficulties in measuring an underground nuke test: Thoughts from Dr. R. Chidambaram, who was Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission. "It is always difficult to correlate the seismic magnitudes with yields unless it is a well-calibrated testing site like Nevada in the United States or eastern Kazakhstan in the erstwhile Soviet Union. It is also susceptible to deliberate manipulation, as happened between the Soviet Union and the United States."

10/09/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It's a Mad(die) World

We Don't Need No Stinking Missile Defense! (2003)

10/09/2006 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

We need a statement from the UN excoriating the Russian nation for incredibly stupidly "losing" 50-100 nuclear weapons.

Maybe we should "lose" 50-100 of our own. Make 'em, then "lose" 'em.

Beautiful. "Don't look at us, WE didn't wreck your capital city!"

10/09/2006 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Path to 10-8

10/09/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. said that when North Korea announced last week that it would conduct a test of nuclear weapons, the financial markets responded with calm, thinking Pyongyang was repeating its "push the envelope to the edge" strategy aimed at expanding its leverage for negotiations.

Most of the market watchers thought that there was little likelihood North Korea would go ahead with its plan to test nuclear devices, according to Citigroup Global.


Citigroup

10/09/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

Is it possible the Norks didn't shoot off a nuke but merely detonated several hundred tons of ammonium nitrate or maybe a big vaporized fuel/air explosion?

I don't understand why they would do this but much of what the Norks do defies explanation.

10/09/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

What about LNG or Propane down a mineshaft?

10/09/2006 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Wait,wait I'm confused here.Too much imput.Let me get this straight.Kim Jong Foley wanted to nuke Terrell Owens'medication ,but the Amish didn't have any electricity so Richard Woodward ..no wait that was Robert Armitage .....
Oh never mind,did that link on the last thread to surviving a nuclear attack include getting under your desk like we learned in 1950's elementary school?

10/09/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger blogNRound said...

lots of conjecture precious little fact.

Citigroup is goofy thinking Kim wouldn't set off something. he always does eventually.

again the Bolton-Bush no negotiation diplomacy over the past 5 years has been ineffective.

Nice job Bolty.

Wrong target(iraq), missed opportunities(5 lossed years), poor execution(Iraq,katrina,OBL). the same story over and over
again.....

insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

10/09/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

3Case said...

"What about LNG or Propane down a mineshaft?"

Natural gas is lighter than air so it would tend to stratify in a mine shaft. However the Norks could have had a nozzle at the top of a long mine shaft spraying a fine mist of gasoline from it. They could have sprayed many hundreds of gallons of gasolene into the mine shaft and waited until there was a stoichiometric mixture of vapor down the length of the shaft. Then discharge a bunch of capacitors through a thin copper wire that was hanging down the length of the shaft. The wire would explode from the electrical heat causing the vapor fuel/air in the whole shaft to detonate at once. The complete setup might cost less than a few million bucks.

Was there any deep rock mining in the area where they thought the "nuke" went off?

10/09/2006 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

blogNRound: I strongly suspect you don't have a glimmer of a clue. Your posts would be best sent to Daily Kos.

10/09/2006 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger metaphysician said...

Econ-Scott:

I'm sorry, but while you can argue the knock on economic effects of nuking ten cities, the climatic effects would be two things: jack, and shit. There would be no nuclear winter, and no meaningful fallout except near the actual blast sites.

10/09/2006 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre Legrand said...

Lets not forget "Proxy Terrorism From Iran a warning from Sharansky and Putin"

One of these guys might know a touch more about whether suitcase nukes are possible than we might. It is frightening indeed that the former head of the KGB has nightmares about suitcase nukes going off in New York. Might better take that seriously...or not. And to those who declare that this won't happen because we would nuke the bastards to hell...oh yea? Exactly who would we nuke? The Russians for being incompetent and losing them in the first place? These are fun times indeed.

Proxy Terrorism From Iran a warning from Sharansky and Putin

10/09/2006 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Geological features could cause focusing or blocking of the pressure waves and account for the difference between our seismographs and the Russians.

10/09/2006 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Thanks for the laff, Trangbang--it wuz a good un--

10/09/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Econ-Scott said...

Metaphysician:

You didn't read it closely

Granted Nuking 5-10 cities would cause negligable weather effect, it's in the retaliation and then the attendant possibility of things "really getting going" should China, Russia, Tehran decide to do some more "opportunistic bombing", gambling for a 50 year check mate.

The effect of the Volcanic Destruction of Krakatowa Island would be similar -- a one year low yield growing season, particularly depending on time of year it occurred, could be less or worse.

But a 25% to 50% reduction in world food production for only one year, economic and bad growing season, would starve 1/4 to 2/5 the world's population outright.

Not a pretty picture in the case of a nuclear armed world ... that has just used nukes on a massive, opportunistic and retaliatory basis.

A Second or third round would be possible.

So take the Economic crisis aftermath and spin it thru a couple of rounds of nuke for effect around the globe.

Serve with ice. (for one year)

10/09/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger PacRim Jim said...

Would you want to be a sailor aboard a ship blockading N. Korea, knowing a nuke might be in the hold of a Nork ship?

10/09/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger daddyx said...

It could be a nuke, or any one of the other suggested items.

Since annoy mouse put it out there, I'm going to say I'm waiting to see how the Japanese react to this.

The Japanese PM Abe is known for his repeated statements on how he wants to change the Japanese Constitution regarding the Self Defense Forces, by giving the JSDF more of an offensive capability.

If there are any rads detected by the Japanese, then I'd venture to say that PM Abe's JSDF provision would be brought to a vote within the Japanese Diet rather quickly.

The JSDF Amendment is what I would consider to be the "canary in the shaft" which would clue us into whether or not the NorKs have a nuke.

I don't see the Japanese Diet (or public) moving to change their Constitutional laws regarding the Japanese Self Defense Forces, unless they have concrete proof of the fact that Kim Il has a bomb.

Also seeing Japanese industries increasing their military output would be the other thing to watch for.

10/10/2006 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger kmccrory said...

The other possibility that I haven't heard put forward is that these are test for the regime in Iran.

1. It is known that Iran is friendly with Nokor.
2. Khan network most likely passed plans, technology and equipment to both regimes.
3. Iranian Intel types were present at the last set of Missile tests.
4. The set of Nokor tests seem to coincide nicely with Iran's problems at the UN. Are they set up to take the pressure off Iran??

Questions and items I'd be looking at:

1. Iran has shorter range missiles that can hit Israel.
2. They now have the ability to process nuclear material to get weapons grade material.
3. Do Iranian missiles have the capability to attach a nuke to them?
4. Iran doesn't need a large nuke to nutralize/destroy Israel.
5. Does Iran have the ability to manufacture the parts for a suitcase bomb?

Nokor may not have a reason to have a suitcase bomb but Iran does.

The US is target number one to take out so that conquest of the rest of the world can happen.

10/10/2006 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger submandave said...

Back in 1993, I conjectured that the DPRK missile show was mostly grandstanding and pride. The single most effective delivery vehicle for a potential DPRK nuclear device is a truck. An all-out artillery barage followed by a massive push down the Incheon-Muncheon corridor has always been their best chance to reach Seoul. Once they get close enough all they haev to do is position the weapon, call for a cease-fire and achieve terms to their liking.

Although there may be some in the DPRK who believe that bunk about the represed brothers and sisters of the south rising in arms to help their northern liberators, the greatest danger of northern agression arrises from a cynical need to consolidate and preserve power through a common external enemy and a manufactured victory. Even if everyone goes back to their own homes when it's all over, as long as Kim comes out with something he can project to his people as positive he wins the round.

10/10/2006 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

One of the most interesting tidbits I've heard since this latest event is that Japan currently has enough plutonium for 5,000 nukes. And you know for sure their stuff will work.

Beam me aboard, Scotty, time to get off this planet.

10/10/2006 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

RWE,

Regarding Davy Crockett: according to the wiki article, the range was about a mile. At top yield (1 KT), the radius at which the blast pressure is 1 psi is about .73 miles (per here which means that you would probably come out OK if you had an APC to duck into as soon as you shot it off

This indicates that your chances of survival would probably be greater from shooting it off, than from waiting to be overrun by whatever force would necessitate employing such a device

10/10/2006 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Fernand_Braudel said...

First, Kim's Type-O Dong goes limp in the Sea of Japan,

Now he's suffering from "Little Bomb" syndrome.

Somebody get that guy some Viagra so he's put away his dangerous toys and play with something safer.

10/10/2006 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Darren Duvall said...

As much as I would prefer to think that this was a fizzle of a NK implosion device, the worrisome thing for me would be that this was a test of a boosted-fission device without the tritium and deuterium.

Just because we went stepwise from spherical implosion to cylindrical and linear implosion doesn't mean that they have to do the same thing, particularly if they have had some help from people with more experience. It's not necessary to assume that this was intended to be a Nork recreation of the Trinity device.

If their next test is above 100kT, I would tend to believe this test was everything it was meant to be, an initiation test for a larger staged weapon.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love nothing more than for KJI to shoot all of his nuclear engineers in a fit of pique, but assuming the best is not necessarily the best policy. The other thing about this being a completely non-nuclear explosion is that it doesn't take 500 tons (1,000,000 lbs) of HE to implode a plutonium core. IIRC, the Fat Man device was a hundredth of that weight or so, in delivery form.

10/10/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Tony,
"You can leave here for four days in space/
But when you return its the same old place....
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
You don't believe we're on the Eve of Destruction"
-Barry Mcguire 1965

10/10/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

With all due respect, and I have more respect for Belmont posters than any other on the Web, these ideas of nuclear winter being caused by a few nukes are way overblown.

If you google (US, "atmospheric tests") or (USSR, "atmospheric tests") you will get a better perspective on how large the world is and how puny even Man's most fearsome weapons are. And remember, these were tests out in open, in the air, and the world did not become radioactive.

The Mt. St. Helens eruption on May 18, 1980 was equivalent to 20,000 Hiroshima bombs. It did not cause nuclear winter or global famine.


I don't completely agree with Pierre LeG., but we should have responded with nukes on Afghanistan before the sun ever set over Manhattan, the Pentagon, and United 93 on 9/11/01.

It may have given these nuts pause, or at least warning.

10/10/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Seriously,folks.I don't like being the class clown but how much bad news,apocalyptic tidbits,Nancy Freakin' Pelosi,school atrocities,WMD's,Shiity Sunnis and not very Sunny Shiites,Chris Matthews slavering like he's on crystal meth,various Clintons,etc. can we bear before we have a collective aneurism.
So here's an exercise:Think of the good stuff in your life and point east first to Mecca and then west to North Korea and lets throw all these turds a collective middle finger of defiance and lets enjoy life.We're Americans and they're not .Tough luck for them!

10/10/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger John (Useful Fools) said...

Econ-Scott is incorrect in his estimates of the effects of small nukes in several cities. Yes, it would cause chaos, but it would not cause widespread fallout or nuclear winter. It would be a mess, and economic catastrophe (what did you say you wanted for your downtown condo in the not-yet-nuked town?). This illustrates a common misconception - that nukes are some sort of magical really big bang, radiate the world, wreck the climate devices. Only possibly true of a large number (1000s) of thermonuclear (not available to Norks) weapons of large yield.

There is no reason for these things to have a short shelf life. Pu has a half life of 24,000 years. Maybe particular designs would require frequent maintenance, but it is not inherent in the problem.

There are all sorts of speculations on what went boom (or fizz or whatever). The Norks have a use for both terrorist-deployed nukes and missile warheads. The latter require miniturization which implies implosion, and implosion is hard to do. Given the political nature of this test, I find it unlikely that the Norks would set off anything small - bigger yields equals better bragging and extorting. Hence this blast was most likely a partial dud of a plutonium implosion device. The other likely possibility is a fake, or as one poster suggested, a combinatino of an implosion test with no nuclear material combined with a large conventional explosive to simulate an actual nuclear test.

In any case, it's time to take the gloves off. Furthermore, since China bears a lot of responsibility (who gave the plans to A.Q Khan?) - I suggest we announce that we have no objection to any nuclear actions by Japan (a feared former enemy of China) and Taiwan (a nuclear armed Taiwan would destroy a fundamental goal of the Chinese regime - i.e. it would really, really hurt them).

Finally, I think it fair to consider that Iran and Korea are joined at the hips. This may not have been a Nork test. It may have been a Nork/Islamofascist test, which is far more alarming. Iran has better access to technology and technologists, and has the sophistication to crerate advanced weapons systems - such as working implosion fission weapons - perhaps even tritium boosted.

10/10/2006 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Well, so much for the "honor system" when negotiating with a Nuclear Nut Cases.

And, so much for the idea that supplying NK with reactors would "reduce" the chance of them making an atomic bomb.

Negotiating with Nut Cases just doesn't work.

10/11/2006 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger Econ-Scott said...

John (usefools):

Nuclear winter conjectures is the wrong question, Whether (weather pun) or not a dozen suitcase nukes could tempt a larger conflagration is irrelevant.

The economic disruption alone would likely trigger food shortages to some of the most desparate parts of the world, and some of those folk have Nukes or will soon.

It probably WASN'T a suitcase nuke.

The Correct question is:

HOW LONG before everyone in the Nuclear Club has back pack or suit case nukes ? Not long.

The 10,000 pound device ?

The 1,000 pound device ?

The 163 pound device, the W54 ?

http://www.active-duty.com/BackPackNukes.htm

Will they build them ? Yes.

How Long from now ? Not long at all.

Chaos is what these people do.

10/11/2006 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Back-pack nukes, I first heard about them in 1975 in an Independent Studies course taught by an Army Col at a liberal university. That was over 30 years ago, for those keeping count.

If our superman enemies can develop them now, out of the blue of history, one wonders why all our enemies never managed them over the past three decades.

The US Navy will one day be called upon to search every ship, and sink every enemy.

Anyone who over-fears our enemies is under-fearing our Navy, Air Force and American history in the face of threats of war.

I hate to say it, but history says it:
Bring it on.

10/11/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Econ-Scott said...

Tony:

It's already underway. A US NAVY board & search nailed a shipload of Gahdaffi's inbound Nuke equipment and pealed back the veneer disguising the AQ Kahn nuke know-how for profit Inc. network.

All those missile cruisers aren't for show or "someday".

My neighbors son is first man aboard in boarding party duty, with an M-14.

His ship ? The USS Cole.

10/12/2006 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger USpace said...

Very interesting, it also takes on a new meaning with the recent agreement. Take the loot when you can.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe thinks
keep building your bombs

always threaten the world
get them to send you money
.

2/14/2007 08:12:00 PM  

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