North Korea’s nuclear capability is growing, apparently very quickly. Evidence indicated that the device detonated underground on Sept. 3 may have been up to 12 times more powerful than anything the country had previously tested. Original intelligence estimated the device’s yield at 100 kilotons, but later satellite image analysis suggested a much larger explosion. The regime claimed it was a hydrogen bomb that would fit in a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

It was North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, the third in two years, and the first since President Trump took office. North Korea in July tested an intercontinental ballistic missile believed to be capable of traveling thousands of miles. The nation has conducted 18 missile tests this year.

North Korea missile

launches and nuclear tests

Note: Launch days are North Korean local time. Does not include cruise missiles.

Nuclear tests by yield

Estimates in kilotons

< 1kt

4 kt

10 kt

6 kt

10-20 kt

250 kt

Source: CSIS Missile Defense Project, Nuclear Threat Initiative, University of Hamburg,

Washington Post reports

THE WASHINGTON POST

North Korea missile launches

and nuclear tests

Note: Launch days are North Korean local time. Does not include cruise missiles.

Nuclear tests by yield

Estimates in kilotons

10 kt

10-20 kt

6 kt

4 kt

< 1kt

250 kt

Source: CSIS Missile Defense Project, Nuclear Threat Initiative, University of Hamburg, Washington Post reports

THE WASHINGTON POST

How strong would the blast be?

Blast radius depends on some variables, particularly the altitude at which a bomb is detonated. Energy from a bomb that goes off in the air travels differently than a bomb that doesn’t detonate until it hits the ground.

Here is how explosions would compare if each of these five bombs were to be detonated one kilometer above the ground, according to the fairly terrifying NukeMap calculator at NuclearSecrecy.com.

DAMAGE SCALE

Fireball

Most living things would

be incinerated.

Radiation

Radiation would kill 50-90 percent of people within

hours to weeks.

High-pressure blast radius

The air blast would destroy most heavily-built concrete structures.

Low-pressure blast radius

Most residential buildings

would collapse.

Thermal radius

Thermal radiation would cause third- degree burns on most people.

NUCLEAR BLASTS COMPARED

250kt

Size tested on Sept. 3 by North Korea

Detonation

one kilometer

(0.6 miles)

above ground

Radius of

damage

0

4.2 miles

Little Boy

Bomb dropped in 1945 over Hiroshima

0

1.1 miles

B83

Largest nuclear bomb in current U.S. arsenal

0

8.5 miles

Dong Feng-5

The largest in China’s current arsenal

0

15.5 miles

Tsar Bomba

Largest ever tested

(Soviet Union, 1961)

0

5 miles

37.3

miles

DAMAGE SCALE

High-pressure

blast radius

Low-pressure

blast radius

Thermal

radius

Fireball

Radiation

Most living things

would be incinerated.

Radiation

would kill

50-90 percent

of people within hours to weeks.

The air blast would destroy most heavily-

built concrete structures.

Most residential buildings would collapse.

Thermal radiation would cause third-

degree burns on most people.

NUCLEAR BLASTS COMPARED

250kt

Size tested on Sept. 3 by North Korea

Little Boy

Bomb dropped in 1945 over Hiroshima

B83

Largest nuclear bomb in current U.S. arsenal

Detonation

one kilometer

(0.6 miles)

above ground

Radius of

damage

0

0

1.1 miles

0

8.5 miles

4.2 miles

Dong Feng-5

The largest in China’s current arsenal

Tsar Bomba

Largest ever tested

(Soviet Union, 1961)

0

15.5 miles

0

5 miles

37.3 miles

We chose that detonation altitude because the intelligence community estimates that North Korea’s most recent intercontinental ballistic missile test broke apart at about that height.

About this story

Sources: Catherine Dill, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California; CSIS Missile Defense Project; Nuclear Threat Initiative; University of Hamburg; blast radius data from Alex Wellerstein’s NukeMap at The Nuclear Secrecy Blog; Washington Post staff reports.

Originally published Sept. 3, 2017.

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