CTBTO detects radioactivity consistent with North Korean nuclear test announced in February 2013

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The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization- CTBTO's radionuclide network has made a significant detection of radioactive noble gases that could be attributed to the nuclear test announced by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on 12 February 2013.

The detection was made at the radionuclide station in Takasaki, Japan, located at around 1,000 kilometres, or 620 miles, from the DPRK test site. Lower levels were picked up at another station in Ussuriysk, Russia. The CTBTO says two radioactive isotopes of the noble gas xenon were identified, which provide reliable information on the nuclear nature of the source.

The ratio of the detected xenon isotopes is consistent with a nuclear fission event occurring more than 50 days before the detection (nuclear fission can occur in both nuclear explosions and nuclear energy production). According to the CTBTO, this coincides very well with announced nuclear test by the DPRK that occurred on 12 February 2013, 55 days before the measurement.

Using Atmospheric Transport Modelling (ATM), which calculates the three-dimensional travel path of airborne radioactivity on the basis of weather data, the DPRK test site was identified as a possible source for the emission.

CTBTO radionuclide expert Mika Nikkinen said: "We are in the process of eliminating other possible sources that could explain the observations; the radionuclides could have come from a nuclear reactor or other nuclear activity under certain specific conditions, but so far we do not have information on such a release."

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty bans all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 September 1966, but it has not entered into force.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’48″

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