Originally posted by daedalas
The way I see it, North Korea suprised the world by annoucing that it had "the bomb" when everyone had assumed that, for the most part, North Korea
had given up it's nuclear ambitions
Who exactly have you been talking to who was "surprised" when North Korea announced that they had the bomb? We've known about Yongbyon since
In 1992, James Baker admitted that North Korea had possessed a crude nuclear weapon since as early as 1989.
The Agreed Framework was adopted in '94, in '96 Hans Blix said the IAEA could not verify North Korea's compliance because they hadn't made a
declaration on their store of plutonium.
In '98 they fired the Taepo Dong I over Japan, sparking all kinds of concerns I'm sure you'll remember.
Then in '02 they finally copped to having the bomb.
So where did the surprise come from, aside from not bothering to read the paper?
the Taepodong-2 ICBM long range korean missle, though it fell into the sea of Japan after only a minute on test lauch (amid speculation that it
was heading for hawaii), is still a scary thought.
More or less. I'm not aware of anything that says the Koreans have got a nuclear weapon down to the 500kg payload that the TD-2 can carry to maximum
range. Getting a nuclear bomb to go off and getting one to go off efficiently are very different things. Our first nukes were around 4000kg (8 times
what TD-2 can carry) and only had a yield of 16kt for little boy and 21kt for fatman.
The North Koreans have to make a tradeoff because of their relatively limited supply of fissile material. Either they make more bombs with less
efficiency (which makes the most sense tactically and strategically) or they make very few bombs with more highly enriched uranium. This primarily
leaves achitecture to up their output.
More power can come from "boosting" (using fissionable materials, but not in a true hydrogen bomb mechanism) and from multiple stages, but i really
can't say if that's realistic for them.
The Korean nuclear test probably had an output of about 5kt, and we don't know what size the device was.
In a vacuum, I'd say that the Koreans could realistically put something on a TD-2 with up to 20kt output, maybe 40 on the high end.
Considering the test though, I see two primary possibilities:
1. They can't put a working device on TD-2 at all, which is why they didn't do a launch test.
2. They detonated one of their warheads, and the TD-2 can lob 5kt at us.
Here's an idea though. 20kt airburst at 540m will give you .6 kilometers of utter destruction in an urban environment, heavy damage for 1.7 km, and
moderate damage out to about 5 km. Second degree burns would be limited to a 3.2km radius, acute radiation symptoms limited to 1.8. It's not until
you get up into the range of coldwar era hydrogen weapons that you start seeing 10s of kilometeres of utter mayhem.
Take Korea seriously, but don't panic.