University of Michigan and other university scientists, part of the Consortium for Verification Technology (CVT), are studying the January 6, 2016 explosion in North Korea. The initial analysis of seismic signals performed by Paul Richards and Won-Young Kim at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that this event is comparable in magnitude to those from the May 2009 and February 2013 nuclear weapons tests in North Korea (the October 2006 test is widely regarded as a fizzle).
Richards and Kim are quoted in an article by CNBC. Other scientists have independently validated this conclusion. Regarding the North Korean claim that it has tested a thermonuclear weapon, CVT scientist Frank Von Hippel of Princeton says: “the seismic magnitude appears to be in the same range as the 2013 test, which was estimated to be of the order of 10 kilotons, it was not in the yield range that we usually associate with thermonuclear tests.” CVT scientist Alexander Glaser, also of Princeton, adds: “If radionuclides have been (or will be) vented from the underground test site, then nuclear forensic analysis may be able to substantiate or challenge North Korea’s claim about the nature of the device. “
CVT scientists Milton Garces (University of Hawaii) and John Lee (University of Michigan) are in the process of obtaining infrasound and radionuclide data, respectively, from the International Monitoring System. These data, together with the seismic data, will provide excellent research and educational opportunities for the faculty and students in the CVT.
About the Consortium for Verification Technology
The CVT is funded by the Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Research and Development office (DNN R&D) of the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration under award #DE-NA0002534. The CVT consists of thirteen leading universities and nine national laboratories, working together to provide the research and development and human capital needed to address technology and policy issues in treaty-compliance monitoring. The underlying issues include nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards in support of the mission of the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development office. The university partners to the consortium are University of Michigan (UM), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton University, Columbia University, North Carolina State University (NCSU), University of Hawaii (UH), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), Duke University, University of Wisconsin (UW), University of Florida (UF), Oregon State University (OSU), Yale University, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The university participants will execute research projects in collaboration with the DOE national laboratories, including Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).