Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 9, 2006

Nuclear Test, or Earthquake?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 am

Around 11:00pm Eastern (U.S.) Time on Sunday Oct. 8, the North Korean news agency reported that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test. Stay with me for a second, and pay attention to the times.

According to the Associated Press report, the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. Monday Oct. 9 local time, which corresponds to 9:36 pm Sunday Eastern (U.S.) Time, or 01:36 Monday UTC (GMT). The AP report was stamped “11:25 PM US/Eastern,” or a bit less than two hours after the reported time of the test.

Now, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting they detected an earthquake centered in North Korea, occuring at “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 10:35:27 AM” local time, or “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 01:35:27 (UTC)” — which is to say, and pretty much the exact same time as the reported nuclear test.

Incidentally, the AP quoted the North Korean news agency as saying, “there was no radioactive leakage from the site.”

Now I don’t know all that much about earthquakes, or all that much about underground nuclear weapons tests, but it seems to me that a good question to ask would be whether they look the same to seismographs (earthquake-detection equipment).

Now there has been a lot of speculation that the purported nuclear program of North Korea is all a bunch of lies, and according to this theory, the reason why Bush hasn’t attacked them (yet) is that he knows they are lies. So if we allow for that, there are three possibilities here:

  1. This was a nuclear test that “looked” like an earthquake and was detected as such.
  2. This was an earthquake, which the North Koreans opportunistically claimed to be a nuclear test.
  3. This was a nuclear test, and the U.S. is trying to make it look like an earthquake to buy time to figure out what to do.
  4. This one heckuva coincidence!

Now, the first possibility is unlikely if in fact there was no radioactive leakage. But so far we only have the work of the North Korean news agency on this, and I don’t trust them much. I’m pretty sure the U.S. and perhaps other governments can monitor radioactivity from a distance, and perhaps they’ll tell us what they find. Maybe. Because, ya’ know, an earthquake doesn’t have any readioactive leakage, either.

The third possibliity seems really unlikely — there would have to a contingency plan in advance to set something like that up, and if there’s a contingency plan, it would probably involve some more substantial response.

The second possibility seems more likely — I can actually believe that the North Korean regime would announce for several years that there is an imminent nuclear test, and wait for an earthquake they know the West will detect to claim to test occured. It is completely in character for them.

In fact, it’s even possible that the North Korean people charged with developing the nuclear weapon have done this to deceive their leader, Kim Jong Il. I’m imagining something like this: he orders them to build a nuclear weapon or be tortured to death, they either don’t know how to do it or don’t want to, so they decide the Dear Leader could be fooled by the next earthquake, so they wait for the next earthquake and tell him it’s the nuclear weapon.

The only trouble with this theory: According to the USGS “Historic Seismicity” map, most of the earthquakes in this region, at least since 1990, have been along a line that passes well to the east of the site detected today.

And oh yes, one other thing — the reported depth of the “earthquake” is “0 km” — which is pretty darn close to the surface for an earthquake, but well within the digging capabilities of North Korea.

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