North Korea nuclear test: U-M experts available

September 5, 2017
Nicole Casal Moore


North Korea has tested a 100-kiloton nuclear weapon, claiming it as a successful thermonuclear test. If true, this is a significant step in technology, as weapons that can fuse hydrogen are more powerful than those that rely only on the splitting of uranium or plutonium atoms.

University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the significance of the test.

Sara Pozzi, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, leads the Consortium for Verification Technology, a $25 million nuclear nonproliferation project that draws together experts in technology and policy. She can add context to the observations of North Korea’s nuclear program and speak more generally about nuclear nonproliferation.

“Sunday’s test seems to indicate an escalation in North Korea’s nuclear program. It suggests a ‘boosting’ with hydrogen that was not present before,” Pozzi said. “There is also the question of the ICBM technology that is being developed in parallel with the nuclear weapon technology—this is obviously concerning and could cause a threat to the U.S. mainland and to U.S. allies. The design of the weapon however would have to ‘fit’ into the ICBM.”


 Ben van der Pluijm is an earthquake geologist and professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Some members of the news media seem to confuse magnitude with energy, van der Pluijm said. The latest North Korea explosion is 30 times larger in energy than the country’s 2016 test, not 10 times larger. Seismograms allow researchers to distinguish between an explosion event and natural earthquake.

Also, the energy released by a hydrogen bomb would likely be much greater than the energy released by the latest North Korea test, he said.

“While a very large device was detonated, not sure where the H-bomb story is coming from,” van der Pluijm said.

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