SEOUL — North Korea’s powerful nuclear test this month may have been even stronger than first reported, equivalent to roughly 17 times the strength of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a new analysis by a U.S. monitoring think tank.
North Korea’s Sept. 3 nuclear test, its sixth and biggest, showed how much progress the country has made on its nuclear program.
Estimates of the bomb’s yield, or the amount of energy released by the blast, have ranged from South Korea’s 50 kilotons to Japan’s 160 kilotons, although some analysts have said the 6.3 magnitude of the earthquake caused by the detonation could put it into the “hundreds of kilotons.” This would put it into the realm of thermonuclear weapons, supporting North Korea’s claim that it had tested a hydrogen bomb.
In comparison, the bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945 released about 15 kilotons of energy.
The new analysis by 38 North, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, found North Korea’s test may have been much stronger.
Updated seismic data showed the magnitude of the resulting earthquake was greater than initial estimates — between 6.1 and 6.3. That means the yield of the latest test was roughly 250 kilotons, reported 38 North’s Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu.
In other words, the North Korean test may have been almost 17 times stronger than the bomb detonated over Hiroshima. This is close to what 38 North previously calculated as the maximum yield that could be contained at the underground Punggye-ri test site.