Will North Korea remove its nuclear weapons?

Above: Image © LewisTsePuiLung, iStockPhoto.com

It’s a historic time for people in North and South Korea. The two countries have been at war since 1950. But on April 27, 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at their border. That hasn’t happened for 10 years.

The two leaders signed a document called the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity, and Unification. The leaders discussed ending the war and removing all nuclear weapons from North Korea.

Did you know?: North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has said his country would remove the nuclear weapons if the United States agreed not to invade it. When North and South Korea fought from 1950-1953, the United States took South Korea’s side. North Korea claims it produces nuclear weapons as defense from possible U. S. invasion.

Nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous. They are powerful weapons fueled by the reactions of close-together nuclei. Learn about the two processes behind nuclear weapons at this link.

You may have heard of nuclear weapons being used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Nuclear weapons have not been used since then. However, there are 22,000 nuclear weapons on Earth and there have been more than 2,000 nuclear weapon tests.

A nuclear weapon can kill millions of people and have disastrous short and long-term effects on the environment where it explodes.

Did you know?: The spread of nuclear weapons to countries or groups that don’t already have them is called nuclear proliferation. In 1968, 62 countries signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. According to the United Nations, 191 countries are now signatories to this treaty.

Many people hope that North Korea’s decision to stop producing them is motivated by peace. But some people think there are other complications with North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Let’s look at the scientific explanations behind one of these possible problems.

Tired Mountain Syndrome

In September 2017, North Korea tested a nuclear bomb underneath a mountain called Mount Mantap. There is a series of tunnels underneath Mount Mantap. This is where North Korea detonates (explodes) its bombs.

Scientists believe the September test was 17 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The September test caused a huge earthquake. Its magnitude was 6.3. This was so strong that it caused the mountain to move!

There were other earthquakes in the area shortly after. Some people believed that these earthquakes were actually more tests. When they turned out to be natural, some scientists suspected tired mountain syndrome. This phenomenon happens when stress causes mountain rocks to weaken. They fracture, or even break.

The more explosions from nuclear tests there are, the more the rocks weaken.

It also changes the tectonic faults. A fault is a crack in a rock in the Earth’s crust. The rocks on either side of a fault have moved past each other.

Fractures, breaks and earthquakes can all happen naturally as well. Plate tectonic movement causes them. But when these changes happen naturally, they happen at a significantly longer scale - in fact, over millions of years!

Fractures and breaks in rocks are worrying when radioactive substances, such as those found in nuclear weapons, are involved. Cracks in the rocks could allow radioactive gases to leak out.

Did you know?: Geologists have seen earthquakes in other areas that have tested nuclear weapons underground, such as Kazakhstan or Nevada in the United States. Some experts say that Mount Mantap is not yet tired, possibly because North Korea has only tested six nuclear weapons there.

Either way, the Panmunjom Declaration is an important step for nuclear non-proliferation.

References

Fingers Crossed for historic North Korea peace promise (2018)

Donna Couts, Kids News

North and South Korea Strike Historic Promise of a Nuclear-Free Path to Peace (2018)

Kim Bussing, DOGONews

After six tests, the mountain hosting North Korea’s nuclear blasts may be exhausted (2017)

Anna Fifield, Washington Post

What is a fault? (2006)

US Geological Survey

Is Mt. Mantap suffering from “tired mountain syndrome”? (2017)

38 North

Why is North Korea shutting down its Nuclear Test Site? (2018)

Yasemin Saplakoglu, Live Science

Nuclear Proliferation (Accessed 2018)

André Munro, Britanica

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Accessed 2018)

Lawrence D. Freedman, Britanica

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