Within the next 24 hours we should see a North Korean nuclear test, to celebrate the Birthday of the North’s ruling dynasty’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

Satellite imagery has shown that the test facility at Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site on Mount Mantap to be ready for a test or tests. North Korea has in the past conducted five nuclear tests with the first coming in October of 2006, and all are believed to be based on nuclear implosion devices that are basic atomic bombs.

Tests Test 1 October 2006​ 4.1 Richter Scale or estimated yield at 2 Kilotons Test 2 May 2009 ​4.5 Richter Scale or estimated yield at 8 Kilotons Test 3 February 2013​ 4.9 Richter Scale or estimated yield at 17 Kilotons Test 4 January 2016 ​4.8 Richter Scale estimated yield at 17 Kilotons Test 5 September 2016 ​5.3 Richter Scale estimated yield at 35 Kilotons

There is considerable evidence that after the first test that the North Koreans have started to try and boost their nuclear tests by the injection of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to increase the yield, and destructive power of their bombs. This is a necessary step to create a thermonuclear device or hydrogen bomb. Experts have reportedly said that the North has modified its nuclear reactor to make tritium, as well as constructed a facility to gather up the radioactive gas. As well, there is recent evidence that North Korea tried to sell excess lithium-6, which is a key component of making thermonuclear fuels including Tritium. There has been a considerable amount of rubble removed from the test tunnels meaning that the North has likely dug deeper into the mountain so that they can increase the yield of the test device.

Other signs of a pending test include a large gathering of people now reported at the main test administration center. The last time that there was such a large gathering of people was at the September 2016 nuclear test. Whether Kim Jong-un will be present is an open question given the sabre rattling now going on between the North, and the US, and regional powers Japan, and China. Japan has sent warships to join US forces around the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group. China has amassed 150,000 troops on the North Korean border and Russia has a ship in South Korean waters. 

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