Bush’s Gift to Jong Il

According to ABC News, US intelligence officials have told the White House there is “a real possibility” that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] is preparing to conduct an underground test of a nuclear weapon.

In particular, the Koreans have been observed unloading “large reels of cable” outside an underground facility in Northeast DPRK, suspected to be a nuke UGT site. The nuke to be tested would be placed at the end of a tunnel, and arming, fusing, firing and diagnostic cables would be run from the nuke to control and diagnostic bunkers outside the tunnel.

Then the tunnel would be “plugged,” to contain the nuke explosion.

If the Koreans do conduct a nuke test – or even if they fake it with a few tons of high explosive – we’ll never know whether the test was a success or not, unless the test is successful, the confinement in the tunnel is insufficient and the nuke explosion vents, allowing radioactive debris to escape into the atmosphere.

Quite a bit can be determined about the design of the nuke and its performance from a radio-chemical analysis of such debris.

But absent such debris, we’ll have to rely on seismic yield, which is not very accurate even when the depth of burial is known, the surrounding geologic media is well characterized and the exact time of detonation is known. We won’t know any of these things.

So, as was the case back in 1998, when the Pakistanis said they successfully tested a half-dozen nukes of different designs at an until-then unknown UGT test facility, if the Koreans say they successfully tested a nuke we’ll just have to take their word for it.

However, we do know that Jong Il has – courtesy George Bush – enough weapons-grade Plutonium to make at least half a dozen first-generation implosion nukes.

Why “courtesy George Bush”?

Each no-nuke signatory to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons agrees to conclude with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a Safeguards agreement. All “source” and “special fissionable materials” as well as any activities involving them are to be made subject to the IAEA Safeguards agreement. The IAEA is thereafter responsible for preventing their “diversion.”

When Bush-Cheney-Bolton came to power, Iran was required to subject to IAEA Safeguards all uranium, plutonium and thorium – in whatever form and however obtained – as well as all activities wherein safeguarded materials are transformed, produced or processed.

But in 1992, the IAEA had essentially accused DPRK of having a clandestine nuke program.

The DPRK denied that it did – and there is no evidence even now that it did, then – but under the Agreed Framework of 1994, the Koreans “froze” all their nuclear programs, subjecting them to IAEA verification. In return, an international consortium – led by South Korea – was to construct in the DPRK two free conventional nuclear power plants. In the meantime, President Clinton promised them annual supplementary shipments of fuel oil.

Clinton also vowed he wouldn’t attack the DPRK – or any other NPT-signatory – with nukes so long as they remained a NPT-signatory.

So, when Bush-Cheney-Bolton came to power, the Koreans were certified to have not diverted any “special fissionable materials” to a military purpose.

So, Bush couldn’t nuke them.

Well, that would never do.

So, in his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush said:

“Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.

“Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature.

“North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

Then, in October 2002, Anonymous [I] told media sycophants that Anonymous [II] “admitted” to him at a cocktail party that DPRK had a clandestine uranium-nuke program.

Never mind that the DPRK vehemently denies to this day having any such program. Or that our intelligence community doesn’t have the foggiest notion where this clandestine uranium-nuke program might be.

Bush promptly ceased fuel oil shipments, thereby unilaterally abrogating the Agreed Framework.

That caused the DPRK to withdraw from the NPT and resume their nuclear programs – only this time they announced they intended to divert their weapons-grade plutonium to a military purpose.

Like producing at least a half-dozen nukes.

So why not test one?

Or at least fake it?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.