19 March 2016

I Called it on the North Korean H-Bomb

An alleged picture of their new warhead
11 Weeks ago, the DPRK claimed to have set off a hydrogen bomb.

Most of the experts said that this was not the case, as the seismic data did not show a significantly larger blast than its previous tests, and normally a first time full Thermonuclear (3-stage) device will be big.

At the time, I suggested that it was not a full 3 stage device, but that it was a boosted device, where there is not a whole bunch of fusion, perhaps 5% of the blast.

I suggested that this was important because what a boosted fission device does allow for is a miniaturized warhead, because the additional neutrons from the small amount of fusion allow for a smaller amount of fissile material.

And now North Korea has announced that it has a miniaturized warhead that it has integrated with one of its missiles:
North Korea claims it has the know how and capability to develop a nuclear warhead to equip ballistic missiles. This claim has been substantiated today, by the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-Un, presenting a complex spherical object claimed to be the country’s miniaturized thermonuclear warhead.“The nuclear warheads have been standardised to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturising them,” Kim noted during a visit with nuclear technicians that was reported by the DPRK state media today.

It is possible that the new warhead is designed for the Korean KN08 intermediate range ballistic missile that has yet to be tested in flight. Once proven, the missile is expected to boast the range and payload capacity to deliver attacks on US targets in the Pacific and west coast. Kim also stressed that the miniaturised warheads were “thermo-nuclear” devices, echoing the North’s claim that the nuclear test it conducted in January was of a more powerful hydrogen bomb.


North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested an H-bomb in January was greeted with scepticism at the time as the estimated yield was seen as far too low for a full-fledged thermo-nuclear device.

However, weapons experts have suggested it may have been a “boosted” fission device, which makes more efficient use of nuclear material and can be made smaller without sacrificing yield.
I wasn't the only one out there suggesting this scenario, but I was in the minority, and it appears that I nailed it.


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