Latest North Korean nuclear test may have been twice as powerful as first thought

Analysts continuing to pore over data related to North Korea’s recent sixth underground nuclear test believe that the blast may have been twice as powerful as first thought.

The first estimates of the blast put the explosive yield at about 100 kilotons, which in and of itself was more powerful than the North’s fifth underground test about a year ago by a factor or around 10. By comparison, the bomb the U.S. detonated over Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II released about 15 kilotons of energy.

However, a new analysis from 38 North, a site run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said the yield may have been more than double the first estimate.

Using updated seismic data, the site’s analysts have concluded that the earthquake that resulted from the underground explosion was greater than initial estimates and was between 6.1 and 6.3, meaning the blast would have yielded somewhere around 250 kilotons of energy. That would be more than 17 times the energy of the Hiroshima blast.

The new 38 North analysis and yield estimate is close to what the organization previously calculated as the maximum that could still be contained at the underground Punggye-ri test site. [source]

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-North Korea conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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