Was North Korea's bomb a dud?
By The Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Post
The apparent low yield of the North's test could signal that its scientists, working largely in isolation, haven't quite perfected the deadly art of efficiently splitting atoms.
Armageddon's not as easy as it looks.
More than 60 years after the United States first tested a plutonium weapon Â partly because scientists weren't sure that it would work Â the technology is still tricky for novices to master.
"The devil is in the details," French nuclear proliferation expert Bruno Tertrais said. "It's like cooking. The fact that you have the recipe does not make you a chef."
"And today's secret ingredient is...PLUTONIUM!!!"
But there's also a possibility that the device Â if it was indeed nuclear Â suffered what experts call "a fizzle," when the fissile material that provides the bang, likely plutonium in North Korea's case, detonates only partly.
That's the technical term for you home gamers.
"The working assumption is that more likely than not it was a nuclear bomb, although not a successful one," said one U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the matter is highly classified.
That's the problem with socialist societies. Even the bombs are under achievers.
The apparent low intensity of the explosion was a key reason for suspicions that it was a dud or, at best, only partially successful.
France's atomic energy agency did not want to comment further today Â partly, a spokeswoman said, because it was concerned that discussing where North Korea might have gone wrong could help it fix any problems for next time.
Though they did surrender after the interview.
The apparent low yield, he added, "indicates that the North Koreans really have trouble making what ordinary people would call a nuclear bomb, they really have a primitive nuclear device."