Studies: There Was a Collapse at North Korea's Nuke Test Site

But whether that means it's unusable remains up for debate
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2018 8:45 AM CDT
In this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

(Newser) – Kim Jong Un on Saturday said nuclear tests would no longer be conducted at the underground Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility; a new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests the move may not be as benevolent as it appears. It flags an about-to-be-published study by Chinese researchers who say that much of the facility below Mount Mantap is actually useless following the country's last detonation, which the seismologists say caused a partial cavity collapse. This isn't exactly new news: Satellite images taken before and after the country's sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 show the 7,200-foot-tall Mount Mantap actually lost elevation. Reports at the time suggested "tired mountain syndrome," which has previously been observed at other nuclear test sites in the US and Soviet Union, was at play.

It essentially means a mountain is under such stress that the collapse of cavities or tunnels is possible. The Journal reports the upcoming study and another published this month provide more evidence that such a collapse did occur. Using data captured by Chinese seismic monitoring stations, they arrived at the same conclusion: that a 6.3-magnitude quake caused by the test led to a collapse inside the mountain that caused a 4.1-magnitude temblor 8.5 minutes later. The second study didn't comment on whether the facility is still usable, and a commentary at 38 North asserts "there is no basis to conclude" it isn't. Yes, the "North Portal" might be damaged, but there are two portals "located in more pristine competent rock" that the site believes would be appropriate for testing.

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