North Korea may be losing its war with the earth.
After a powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 that North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb, four earthquakes have now struck the region where the regime tests its weapons, leading some experts to say the site may no longer be functional.
“The explosion from the Sept. 3 test had such power that the existing tunnels within the underground testing site might have caved in,” said Kim So-gu, head researcher at the Korea Seismological Institute.
“I think the Punggye-ri region is now pretty saturated. If it goes ahead with another test in this area, it could risk radioactive pollution,” he said, as reported by Reuters.
Another earthquake near North Korea's nuclear test site suggests that the area has become unstable https://t.co/ywR4KIbvmd
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A more powerful underground detonation at the current site could be “potentially suicidal,” not only because of damage from past tests, but also due to potential eruptions at Mount Paektu, a volcano only about 60 miles away, according to Kune Yull Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University.
The website 38 North, which tracks North Korean activities, reported that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site did sustain damage from the last test.
It said there were “numerous landslides throughout the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site on the slopes of Mt. Mantap (and beyond) resulting from North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North’s previous five tests.”
“There was also one report of concern that Mt. Mantap might actually collapse as a result of the nuclear testing beneath it. Such reports of the mountain’s demise are highly exaggerated, although there is little doubt that there would have been significant “cracking” (possibly extending to the surface) as well as significant “irreversible strain” resulting from this event. Such cracking facilitates radioactive gas seepage in other environments,” 38 North added.
However after some of the earthquakes, significant underground damage did take place.
“It was the mountain collapsing into the cavity created by the explosion … hundreds of meters below the surface,’’ Thorne Lay, a professor at UC Santa Cruz, told the Los Angeles Times.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters last month that North Korea might conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.
Suh said Ri’s comments might indicate the North can’t carry out new explosions at its test site, CBS News reported.
“It’s likely that North Korea will conduct its next nuclear test in the stratosphere, or about 100 to 300 kilometers (60 to 185 miles) from the ground, where it will be able to conduct more powerful detonations,” Suh said.
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