Evidence of the 2010 nuclear tests in North Korea was published Feb. 3 in Nature magazine, citing the work of the Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer. The Swedish scientist analyzed data showing the presence of radioisotopes that betrayed a uranium bomb explosion. De Geer took the radioisotope data and compared them with the South Korean reports, as well as meteorological records. Nature reports, “After a year of work, he has concluded that North Korea carried out two small nuclear tests in April and May 2010 that caused explosions in the range of 50–200 tonnes of TNT equivalent. The types and ratios of isotopes detected, he says, suggest that North Korea was testing materials and techniques intended to boost the yield of its weapons.”
But why should North Korea keep the nuclear tests secret? asks Rühle. North Korea proudly advertised its previous nuclear tests. But the North Korean tests of 2006 and 2009 used bombs with a plutonium core. The 2010 tests, according to Lars-Erik de Geer’s calculation, employed enriched uranium. North Korea might have secretly enriched uranium on a sufficient scale to produce sufficient explosive material for two test bombs. But the more likely explanation is this, Rühle concludes:
“The second explanation would be that North Korea conducted a nuclear test for a foreign entity, in this case, an Iranian explosive. That would be a sensation, although not quite a surprise, to be sure. Intelligence services have observed a close degree of cooperation between North Korean and Iranian experts over a period of years for the preparation of a nuclear test, although the previous assumptions centered on the prospect of an underground nuclear test in Iranian territory.”
Five years ago Israel destroyed a secret nuclear facility in Syria that was staffed by North Koreans. It wouldn’t surprise us in the least if we eventually learn that Iran had been outsourcing parts of its clandestine nuclear weapons program to two of its allies.