Can someone explain to me why this isn’t making bigger headlines?
Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.
The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.
They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
(Hat tip: InstaPundit, who wins the understatement-of-the-year award for saying, “This seems like news.”)
24 superman Jack Bauer is hunting down suitcase nukes in L.A., the heroes of Heroes are trying to stop a nuke from going off in New York, and the residents of a small town in Kansas are trying to figure out which cities got nuked, and who nuked ‘em, on CBS’s surprise hit Jericho (which resumes tomorrow with a one-hour recap at 8pm, then starts its second half-season in earnest next Wednesday). In sum, TV executives are discovering that nukes make for good TV.
Unfortunately, there’s news about nukes in the real world, too — some of it bad and some of it… well, you be the judge.
First, the unequivocally bad:
Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.
In an admission of the international communityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s failure to hold back IranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nuclear ambitions, the document Ã¢â‚¬â€œ compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief Ã¢â‚¬â€œ says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,Ã¢â‚¬Â it states.
Gee, ya think?
Speaking of negotiation and engagement, here’s the other news:
In a landmark international accord, North Korea promised Tuesday to close down and seal its main nuclear reactor within 60 days in return for 50,000 tons of fuel oil as a first step in abandoning all nuclear weapons and research programs.
That sounds like good news. But can we trust it, or will it lull us into a false sense of security? Let’s not forget what happened the last time we made a deal with North Korea to shut down its nuclear program. They took the “incentives” with one hand and kept secretly building nukes with the other. Can we be sure they won’t do the same thing again? Does this “landmark international accord” provide for meaningful oversight and muscular enforcement if Kim Taepodong Il doesn’t keep his end of the bargain? As usual, the devil’s in the details. And some of those don’t sound terribly encouraging:
North Korea also expressed willingness to accept the return of nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor what is going on at the reactor and other nuclear installations. But it said their work would be subject to agreement between the North Korean government and the U.N. nuclear agency, suggesting North Korea could exercise a veto power over their activities.
Good news or bad news? Only time will tell, methinks.
North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.
Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Teheran’s nuclear scientists. …
A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October’s underground test to assist Teheran’s preparations to conduct its own Ã¢â‚¬â€ possibly by the end of this year.
The test will be for “peaceful purposes,” I’m sure.
Yes, this is the second time I’ve used a Dr. Strangelove reference in the title of a post about North Korea. But given what the article says, I couldn’t resist.
Now on Drudge:
What’s next? “Newsroom Sources Reveal NYT Friday Splash: ‘We’re All Going To Die!!!’ DEVELOPING…”
Matt Drudge is so easy to hate… and yet, sometimes, you can’t help but love him… like when he puts an image of the Team America: World Police puppet version of Kim Jong Il on his homepage…
LOL! (Or, should I say, “ROR”? “I’m so ronery…”)
Anyway, what Drudge is headlining directly above that hilarious picture is this supposed scoop:
U.S. intelligence agencies say, based on preliminary indications, that North Korea did not produce its first nuclear blast yesterday, Washington Times star reporter Bill Gertz is set to report in Tuesday editions.
U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that seismic readings show that the conventional high explosives used to create a chain reaction in a plutonium-based device went off, but that the blast’s readings were shy of a typical nuclear detonation.
In other words, if I’m understanding that right, the non-nuclear “detonator” went off, but the nuclear part didn’t fire. Hmm. I wonder, is that really more plausible than the “it was a non-nuclear hoax” theory? I mean, wouldn’t 550-800 tons be a whole lot of conventional explosives to use as a mere detonator for a relatively small nuclear device? Even assuming it was supposed to be a Nagasaki-sized (~20 kiloton) bomb? Can you really get the equivalent of a 4.2 (or 3.58) magnitude earthquake from the mere act of, in essence, lighting the fuse on an atomic bomb? Granted, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so I could be totally wrong, but it just seems kinda fishy to me. Maybe someone who knows more about such things can weigh in…
Anyway, Drudge goes on to quote, uh, somebody, as saying: “There was a seismic event that registered about 4 on the Richter scale, but it still isn’t clear if it was a nuclear test. You can get that kind of seismic reading from high explosives.” Well, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the non-nuclear theory; sounds more like a “wait and see.”
There’s nothing yet on the Washington Times website.
UPDATE: Here’s the article. Money quote: Gertz’s source “said that so far, ‘it appears there was more fizz than pop.’”
Gertz explains that “[a] successful nuclear detonation requires a properly timed and triggered conventional blast that splits atoms, setting off the nuclear chain reaction that produces the massive explosions associated with atomic bombs.” That’s all well and good, but my question is, again, is it reasonable to expect the “properly timed and triggered conventional blast” to itself be so massive that it produces a 3.6-4.2 magnitude tremor? Does it take 550-800 tons of conventional explosives to “set off the nuclear chain reaction”? Seriously, does anyone know?
Also: if it those numbers do make sense Ã¢â‚¬â€ and if indeed thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what happened, a conventional blast followed by a nuclear dud Ã¢â‚¬â€ what, if anything, does that tell us about the size of nuclear bomb they were trying to set off?
Who said this?
North Korea’s nuke testing constitutes a failure of US policy. We can debate the details and the extenuating circumstances, but President Bush denounced the Axis of Evil five years ago and promised that he would do everything to keep its members from getting nukes. Well, North Korea just detonated one. Iran is well on its way to getting one. And Iraq, well, that’s not quite the bright spot we hoped it would be.
Kos? Atrios? Andrew Sullivan? The New York Times editorial board?
Nope. Jonah Goldberg, at National Review Online. Crazy, deranged, Bush-hating liberal! :)
(Sully did quote him, though, and he gets the hat tip.)
In contrast to earlier reports that North Korea planned to test a nuke with a yield greater than that of the Hiroshima bomb (~13 kilotons) and similar to that of the Nagasaki bomb (~21 kilotons), it appears that last night’s test had a yield of less than a kiloton:
North Korea’s nuclear test was low-powered and is believed to have been conducted in a horizontal tunnel dug deep inside a mountain on its northeast coast.
The activity measured 3.6 on the Richter scale, which could be caused by the explosion of the equivalent of 800 tonnes of dynamite, said Chi Heon-Cheol, head of the Korea Earthquake Research Centre.
Another unidentified expert quoted by Yonhap news agency said the blast was equivalent to about 550 tonnes of TNT judging by the seismic tremor.
The US atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima during World War II was comparable to 12,500 tons of TNT.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (relatively) easy to bring together a critical mass of uranium or plutonium and start a nuclear reaction. When this happens, a nuclear explosion has occurred. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s somewhat harder to keep the nuclear fuel together long enough to explode all of it. If the bomb is poorly designed or built, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible for the bulk of the fuel to be blown clear before undergoing fission. So a bomb designed for 20 kT can end up at 1 kT.
So this test may have been somewhat less than fully “successful”… not that Kim Taepodong Il’s government will ever admit that.
That said, I wouldn’t particularly want a even a 0.55-kiloton or 0.8-kiloton nuclear explosion happening in an American city. (On the other hand, if this nuke was basically a dud, would a terrorist buy it — or, rather, another one just like it — knowing it’ll probably underperform expectations?)
Also, they may test another one.
P.S. More info on Richter scale/kiloton equivalents from Wikipedia.
[A seismic reading in the range of] 3.58-3.7 gives you a couple hundred tons (not kilotons) … The same equation, given the US estimate of 4.2, yields…around a kiloton.
A plutonium device should produce a yield in the range of the 20 kilotons, like the one we dropped on Nagasaki. No one has ever dudded their first test of a simple fission device. North Korean nuclear scientists are now officially the worst ever.
Of course, I want to see what the US IC says. If/when the test vents, we could have some radionuclide data — maybe in the next 72 hours or so.
But, from the initial data, I’d say someone with no workable nuclear weapons (Kim Jong Il, I am looking at you) should be crapping his pants right now.
First the missile, then the bomb. Got anything else you wanna try out there, chief?
The post begins with the words, “HA HA HA HA,” and includes the following image:
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean to belabor the point I have made before, but I was trained in the Army as a nuclear-target analyst. A yield of 550-800 tons (.55-.8 KT) is not too small by any means as an achievable yield. … [A]n atomic bomb of .6KT or so is no city flattener, but would work quite spectacuarly as a terrorist weapon. If detonated on the ground or from the top of a building, it would also result in serious fallout, increasing the terror effect and the number of deaths. Further, it would contaminate the terrain at and near ground zero for a long time. Cleanup and decontamination would be lengthy and very expensive. Imagine such a weapon being detonated in an American harbor.
So we should not be relieved that the apparent yield was so low. If the design yield was in the sub-kilton range, then this test was very successful. …
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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“dud.Ã¢â‚¬? I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s far too soon to be laughing aloud at Kimmy boy, myself.
Oh, that’ll be good: I’ll be celebrating the joyous union of Marissa and Keith in wedded bless, when suddenly, I’ll get a CNN breaking-news alert, a BBC breaking-news alert, a Drudge siren alert, and several other cell-phone text-message bulletins, all telling me that Kim Taepodong Il has blown a gasket, again, and this time a mushroom cloud was involved. Even on silent mode, the phone still blinks… it’ll be hard enough not checking the USC and Notre Dame scores, without wondering what all the flashing lights are about…
Seriously, I hope this world is a bit more peaceful and less scary by the time Logan and his peers (Generation 300,000,000?) inherit it. Alas, I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic on that point.
“The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering nuclear deterrent, as a self-defense measure in response,” the North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement…
My Take: Kim Jong Il is getting jealous again. Too much media attention to Mark Foley and Bob Woodward. ;> Here’s hoping little Kim the Ill doesn’t Test it atop one of his mighty Taepo Dongs; nobody knows where those things are gonna Fall down & go Boom ~ least of all his Democratic Peoples’ Republican Rocket Scientists. / Whole thing.
(We return you now to Other cheerful news of the day, e.g. slaughter of schoolchildren to expiate killer’s sins, hijacking of airplane to protest Pope, and destruction of church by lightning.)
According to a published report, the long-range North Korean missile that failed shortly after take-off was aimed at waters near Hawaii. Yikes.
UPDATE: North Korea may be planning another long-range test.
William J. Perry & Ashton B. Carter, former Defense Secretary and Assistant Secretary respectively, now Stanford and Harvard per-fessers :), profess the case for the pre-emptive wallop of Kim Jong Il’s Taepo Dong in a Washington Post op-ed piece today.
A sub-launched cruise missile will do the job nicely, say the boys. First we should threaten it; and then if the North Koreans don’t respond by Defueling their toy and putting it away, we just Take that mother right Out.
Since Our Good Friends the South Koreans will yell to Hell about this plan, they’ll be safe from any Red retaliation, add the lads. Well. Probably. But just in case, they hedge,
…it would be prudent for the United States to enhance deterrence by introducing U.S. air and naval forces into the region at the same time it made its threat to strike the Taepodong. If North Korea opted for such a suicidal course, these extra forces would make its defeat swifter and less costly in lives — American, South Korean and North Korean.
Perry & Carter also opine that if we wreck Kim’s rocket Japan will be pleased, but only Secretly so; whereas Russia and China will be “shocked” but won’t Do squat about it.
Interesting. (OKOK: Intriguing. :) Read the essay. And, as Kat Palmore asks below about the Other kind of global Warming: Thoughts? :|
Umm, since when do we actually have an operational missile-defense shield? Since today, apparently. But, um, doesn’t it fail like 50% of the time? Ah well, 50% (or 10%, or 0.001% — whatever) is better than 0%, I guess. This is all because we’re worried about North Korea, of course.
North Korea, clearly upset that Iran is getting all the attention, is seeking to re-establish itself as the preeminent evildoer in the Axis of Evil. This morning’s headlined articles on Drudge:
North Koreans Said to Be Near a Missile Test (specifically, a long-range ballistic missile that could reach the U.S.)
N. Korea ‘a Button-Click’ from Launching Missile (and Japan is not happy about it, oh no, not happy at all)
N Korea threatens to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwipe outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ US forces: “If the enemies ignite a war eventually, the Korean army and people will mercilessly wipe out the aggressors and give vent to the deep-rooted grudge of the nation.”
Yet more proof that Stephen Hawking is right.