New Scientist and others are already casting doubts on whether North Korea really did detonate a nuclear device underground on Monday. The magazine points to discrepancies in the reporting of the size of the explosion as hinting that NK may have simply detonated a massive cache of conventional explosive in the hope of simulating the effects of a nuclear device.
The magazine says that the Korea Earthquake Research Centre in South Korea reported a 3.58-magnitude tremor from North Korea’s North Hamgyong province, which is equivalent to a 800 tonnes of TNT, but the Russian defence minister says the explosion was closer to 5000-15000 tonnes. By contrast, the Hiroshima bomb was estimated at 15 kilotonnes.
Scientists are frantically analysing the seismographic evidence and assessing whether or not this could have been a large conventional explosion, a failed nuclear detonation, or the claimed success that North Korea’s smiling TV correspondent claimed.