Did North Korea Just Detonate a Hydrogen Bomb?

WORLD

North Korea says it has carried out an underground test of a hydrogen bomb, but Western observers are skeptical. What’s the big deal? (BBC)

Use our resources to learn more about the U.S.’s own testing of H-bombs.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

The hydrogen bomb that exploded as part of a test codenamed "Castle Bravo,” above, was the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the United States. Photograph courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

The hydrogen bomb that exploded as part of a test codenamed “Castle Bravo,” above, was the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the United States.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

Discussion Ideas

  • Hasn’t North Korea tested nuclear weapons before?
    • Yes. According to the BBC, North Korea’s nuclear program has “been a source of great concern for the international community for more than 20 years.”

 

  • So why is this test such a big deal?
    • North Korea is claiming to have detonated a hydrogen bomb, not simply an atomic bomb. If North Korea’s claims are true, this would be a huge advancement in its nuclear program.

 

 

 

hbombs

 

  • North Korea is claiming to have deployed its H-bomb in an underground test. What does this mean?
    • Underground testing is one of the safest ways to test nuclear weapons. When the device being tested is buried deep enough, the explosion may be contained, with no release of radioactive materials to the atmosphere.

 

 

  • Why are experts skeptical about North Korea’s claim?
    • Measuring seismic waves from the test-triggered quake indicates the weapon’s yield was about 10,000 to 15,000 tons of TNT. This is much, much smaller than the approximate 100,000-ton marker of an H-bomb—which would have triggered around a magnitude 7 earthquake. Here’s a good graphic comparison.
      • Having said that, the depth of the test could easily allow the results to be misinterpreted; it is possible the Hermit Kingdom could have detonated a small hydrogen bomb.

 

  • When will we learn more?
    • If radioactive material was vented out from the underground test, it could be easily sampled in the atmosphere as it reaches neutral airspace. According to the BBC, “the U.S. will fly its WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft to analyze the atmosphere off the North Korean coast. Other countries will also perform their own sampling, but ‘there is no guarantee that anything will leak’.”

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

BBC: North Korea ‘H-bomb test’: What do we know?

Nat Geo: Castle Bravo

Nat Geo: What countries have tested hydrogen bombs? MapMaker Interactive map

Nat Geo: What countries have access to nuclear weapons? MapMaker Interactive map

BBC: North Korea’s nuclear tests

New York Times: Why Experts Doubt North Korea Tested a Hydrogen Bomb

USGS: M5.1 Nuclear Explosion – 22km ENE of Sungjibaegam, North Korea

PBS NewsHour: Types of Nuclear Bombs

4 responses to “Did North Korea Just Detonate a Hydrogen Bomb?

  1. Pingback: What Did You Read in 2017? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: How Do Scientists Tell the Difference Between Natural Earthquakes and Earthquakes Caused by Nuclear Tests? | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  3. Pingback: Hydrogen Bombs Are Different From Nuclear Bombs, How? 5 Differences Explained - www.kanigas.com·

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