News of the WeekARMS CONTROL

Verification Experts Puzzled Over North Korea's Nuclear Test

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Science  19 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5934, pp. 1499
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1499a

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When North Korea declared on 25 May that it had carried out a second underground nuclear test—a blast that clearly showed up on seismometers across the globe—it seemed to confirm what most observers feared about the country's nuclear ambitions. But at a scientific conference it convened here last week, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization revealed that its global network of radionuclide detectors, which sniff out faint wind-borne traces of radioactive elements such as xenon, had not picked up anything it could pin on the Korean test. Press reports say that South Korean sensors have also detected nothing, and neither has a U.S. Air Force plane over the East Sea, causing some to speculate that the test was faked with nonnuclear explosives.