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Has North Korea tested a boosted fission nuclear device?

North Korea claimed that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb last week on January 6th. Seismic data the same day registered 5.1 magnitude body waves, corresponding to estimates that the blast would have contained between 4.7 and 7 kilotons of energy. That energy yield is much smaller that previous tests of H-bombs, which release upwards of 30 kilotons, and the current consensus (1,2) is that the test was not a thermonuclear device. While an H-bomb is most likely ruled out, it still leaves the possibility that North Korea has the capability to design compact nuclear weapons that use boosted fission, in which a relatively small energy release from nuclear fusion catalyzes a higher rate – and higher yield – of nuclear fission. A boosted fission nuclear device is still a threatening weapon of mass destruction and indicates a significant technological advance in the North Korean nuclear program.

By February 1, 2016, will a major news source run an article reporting that the blast detected on January 6th is from a boosted fission nuclear weapon?


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