Researchers have found that a nuclear test site in North Korea may have collapsed after a fifth blast last fall and this may be the true reason for the agreement to end the nuclear tests. Researchers also believe the blast led to the creation of a massive "chimney" that could leak radioactive fallout into the air. This potentially puts China and other nearby nations at risk of extreme radiation levels
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The last five of the country's six nuclear tests were all carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-Ri nuclear test site. This is the mountain researchers believe to have collapsed and now leaking radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. The group believes the most recent blast tore a hole open in the mountain which then collapsed on itself. Another group also affirmed the theory and concluded that the breakdown has made a "chimney" that is allowing the radioactive fallout to leak into the air.
Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China who is researching the North Korean nuclear blasts, concluded the collapse occurred last fall after the country's most powerful thermonuclear warhead was detonated in a tunnel about 700 meters below the top of the mountain. The result is a fragmented and fragile mountain which has allowed the radioactive fallout to spread. Their findings were added with images of the mountain from satellites showing before and after the blast.
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Wen's team said, "It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident." The group plans to release their findings in the peer-reviewed journal "Geophysical Research Letters" next month. North Korea is believed to have thought the mountain an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation at over 2,100 meters above sea level. Now that the mountain has collapsed, the result is the radioactive fallout spreading farther due to the increased altitude.
The fifth thermonuclear explosion even caused earthquakes in the surrounding area and the "rock collapse … was for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site", according to Lui's research findings. The blast didn't just remove the top part of the mountain's summit, it also created that deadly "chimney" for nuclear fallout to rise and distribute in the atmosphere from the high altitude. Zhao Lianfeng, a researcher at the Institute of Earth and Science in Bejing confirmed the findings saying, "Their findings are in agreement to our observations. Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions. The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside."
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