10/31/17

Did North Korea test tectonic weapon?

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted 6 underground test, with  the last 5 from 6 in the same mountain. The biggest (sixth) event conducted on September 3, 2017 (DPRK6) had magnitude (mb=6) and resulted in visible landslides and also was followed by a few aftershocks with magnitudes between 2.4 and 3.4. Two of them occurred on September 23 (around 4:40 and 8:30 UTC) and are likely were reported today as the cause tunnel collapse and casualties. The test conducted on September 9, 2016 was also followed by a small aftershock well described in our paper (https://arxiv.org/abs/1611.03055 or https://link.springer.com/article/10.1134/S1028334X17030011 ), which is very similar to the aftershocks of the DPRK6.
Among many challenges in the analysis of various physical measurements related to the DPRK test is the absence of measurable levels of radioactivity after 4 from 6 events and just minor traces of radioactivity after the other two.  Very deep placement of warheads can prevent radioactive gas venting and  thus provide effective containment of radioactive debris,  Let's consider two possibilities alternative to nuclear testing. 
Having the last event equivalent to about 100,000 tons of TNT, one can reject the hypothesis that this DPRK test was a chemical blast. An alternative explanation would be testing of tectonic weapon, as introduced by Russian geophysicist V. Nikolayev in 1992. There are several physical mechanisms that can be used to facilitate effective release of pre-existing tectonic energy and generation of seismic waves. In any case, the mountain is exhausted after five tests and no more tectonic release is possible.  I do not believe that tectonic weapon can be as efficient as we observed in six DPRK events. In case it does exist this is an additional threat for the peaceful world. 

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