Scientists pore over data from NKorea blast

PARIS, Oct 9, 2006 (AFP) – Scientists took a dour wait-and-see attitude after North Korea claimed to have successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday. Only careful analysis of data returned by seismic or atmospheric sensors will say whether the blast was a success or a damp squib, they said.

Nor could they rule out the possibility of a scam, in which North Korea blew up a huge stock of conventional explosives to bolster its claim to have joined the nuclear club.

James Acton of Vertic, an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) in London that specialises in verification research, noted enormous discrepancies in the estimated size of the blast.

The Korea Earthquake Research Centre in South Korea said there was a 3.58-magnitude tremor from North Korea’s North Hamgyong province that translated into the equivalent of 800 tonnes (0.8 of a kilotonne) of TNT.

But Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency, said the strength was five to 15 kilotonnes. By comparison, “Little Boy,” the US atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima during World War II released the equivalent of around 12,500 tonnes of TNT.

“I