This is part of IEEE Spectrum's special report: Nuclear Power Gets a Second Look Of the countless scenarios of terrorist mayhem, none quickens the pulse quite like the menace of a nuclear bomb, and for good reason. A nuclear weapon embodies essentially everything a terrorist could hope for: the ability to kill at least tens of thousands of people at once, a fiery explosion that reverberates globally in images of death and destruction, and a lingering, lethal legacy, in the form of radioactive fallout. Fortunately, most terrorist groups are transient, geographically dispersed, and limited in their technical resources, all factors that hardly conduce to building a nuclear bomb. Admittedly, there are shortcuts, such as buying the bomb-grade materials or even an entire weapon on the black market. But those options are somewhat less accessible than they were in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, before the United States and other countries spent hundreds of millions … [Read more...] about Unconventional Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear weapons north korea
Update, 7 February 2016: North Korea declares that at 9 a.m. local time it launched an “earth observation satellite” into orbit. The launch was followed by condemnation by Japan, South Korea, and the United States, who doubt the peaceful intentions of such a test. Jim Oberg’s own doubts stem from his on-the-ground observations of the North Korean space program in 2012. North Korea has told the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization that it plans to launch a new space rocket this month, its first in more than three years. The stated aim of the launch is to deliver an Earth-observation satellite into orbit. But the plan, which comes hot on the heels of the country’s nuclear test last month, has drawn criticism and concern from a number of countries, who point out that this same technology can be used to produce a ballistic missile with a range of thousands of miles. There is very good reason to suspect that the peaceful objective … [Read more...] about What’s Behind North Korea’s Space Launch? A View From the Inside
After North Korea proclaimed on Wednesday that it had successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb, the rest of the world quickly decided it was not true. The White House pointed out that the estimated 3.4- to seven-kiloton blast couldn’t be from a full-blown H-bomb—the smallest previous explosion of such a bomb having yielded about 30 kilotons—and explained the explosion as merely the result of a weapon in which a small amount of fusion fuel is used to boost a fission reaction. But it would be a mistake to write off this week’s news as merely the latest in a series of essentially incompetent nuclear efforts by Pyongyang. It is probably true that North Korea did not detonate an H-bomb and instead pulled off what is known as a boosted fission weapon, which is less dangerous. However, a boosted fission weapon isn’t an inconsequential step forward. The evidence suggests that North Korea is not merely stumbling through a recapitulation of the way the … [Read more...] about How I Learned to Keep Worrying Even if North Korea Didn’t Test an H-Bomb
Examine a night composite satellite image of the Earth. The areas that are well lit are, for the most part, regions of wealth and well-being. Darkness represents wilderness or poverty. A very small feature is particularly interesting. South Korea shines brightly while North Korea is dark; the demilitarized zone is the clear boundary. With the Berlin Wall gone, this border is now the most vivid illustration of the difference between communism and capitalism. Yet North Korea can, any time it so desires, make a light brighter than a thousand suns. At least that is the opinion of Florida Senator Bob Graham, chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. “North Korea has at least two nuclear weapons,” he stated bluntly on Meet the Press recently. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is more cautious. In August 2001 he said that North Korea has the nuclear material to have between two and five nuclear weapons, but he did not claim that any had been built.The contrast between … [Read more...] about North Korea-the Next Iraq?
Satellite images of North Korean missile testing sites or nuclear reactor facilities can sometimes reveal smears of yellow or befuddling brown objects at certain times of the year. A casual armchair observer might suspect those patterns as indicating something nefarious. But they actually represent a mundane harvest practice—North Korean workers often dry out their corn harvest on pavement before putting the harvested crop into brown sacks. Growing swarms of commercial satellites have provided new tools for both government spies and independent analysts to peek inside North Korea as the isolated “Hermit Kingdom” races to strengthen its arsenal of nuclear weapons. But the process of understanding satellite images of suspected North Korean missile or nuclear test sites is far from easy and requires more than just the latest satellite imaging technology. The best analysts need more than the skills to analyze … [Read more...] about How Experts Comb Satellite Images for Clues on North Korea’s Nuclear Tests
The famous Stuxnet computer virus that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program apparently had a cousin designed to do the same to North Korea. But this other U.S. cyber attack failed because agents could not physically access the isolated computers of North Korea’s nuclear program. Several U.S. intelligence sources told Reuters that the operation aimed at North Korea took place at the same time as the Stuxnet attack that crippled Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. The Stuxnet virus worked by hijacking the control software of fast-spinning centrifuges belonging to Iran’s nuclear program. Once activated, Stuxnet caused physical destruction by forcing the centrifuges to spin out of control and tear themselves apart. The U.S. National Security Agency led a similar, unsuccessful effort with a modified Stuxnet aimed at taking down North Korean centrifuges. Both Iran and North Korea likely use similar centrifuges that can … [Read more...] about Stuxnet-Style Virus Failed to Infiltrate North Korea’s Nuclear Program
It’s been a while since Anonymous last unleashed its wrath by breaking into websites and defacing them with its signature slogans, but we didn’t have to wait too long for the hacktivist group to acquire a suitable target – this week it’s North Korea.Last week, a group of hackers claiming to be part of Anonymous reportedly gained access to 15,000 passwords from Uriminzokkiri.com – a North Korean news and information website – as a message against the country’s regime and nuclear weapons program. The site is currently unavailable, proving that the group responsible for the hacking did some real damage. Although there’s been no real confirmation that this was an Anonymous attack, the screenshot (see above) links Uriminzokkiri to a slew of websites that have been tampered with, including a Flickr account, which appears to have been cleansed recently of offending images posted (see screenshot by The Next Web here). Music store … [Read more...] about Hacker group Anonymous sets its sights on North Korea, vandalizes Twitter and Flickr accounts
Informatics The North launched its first and only satellite in 2012. The claim that it is working on another, made in an interview last week with an AP Television crew in Pyongyang, comes amid a flurry of attention to the country's fledgling space agency, including a visit by leader Kim Jong Un to a new satellite control center that was repeatedly broadcast on North Korean TV early last month."We are developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and when it's complete, before launching it, we will inform international organizations and other countries," Paek Chang Ho, vice director of the scientific research and development department of the North's space agency, said in the interview.Paek did not provide further details of what the satellite will do, how close it is to completion, when development began or when the next launch might be.Speculation the North may be planning a rocket launch to mark the 70th anniversary this October of the ruling Korean Workers Party heated up … [Read more...] about North Korea Developing New Satellite, Defends Space Program
Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory are pushing ahead with work related to national security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons as new managers take over New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories for the first time in decades, officials said Monday.Director Stephen Younger discussed the lab's future during a news conference that marked the start of a new contract with National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a subsidiary of Honeywell International.The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced the $2.6 billion management contract in December. Officials have spent the last few months working on a smooth transition for the lab's thousands of employees and operations.The bulk of work at Sandia centers on the research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but scientists there also have worked on energy and climate projects.Younger, who has a background in nuclear … [Read more...] about US Nuclear Weapons Lab to Keep Focus on National Security
When we have a hostile country regularly lobbing missiles into the ocean with the stated objective of transforming a U.S. state into a radioactive cloud, we have a problem. One "oops" and we could suddenly become a 49-state nation again -- and that is only if we forget the issues with fallout and the potential for a nuclear winter (granted, that could be good news for the global warming folks).However, the approaches to cutting the legs out from under North Korea largely have been in-the-box thinking: economic sanctions that require China's cooperation (and aren't working); military and assassination options that would trigger retaliation that likely would result in a lot of us glowing at night; and revolution efforts that have little or no chance of succeeding.Still, there are companies that have been working on technologies that effectively could contain North Korea's missiles and turn their leader into more of a vocal than a physical problem. Since I'm on the West Coast and … [Read more...] about OPINION Could Tech Nerf North Korea?