Shrimp’s four-mile-wide fireball vaporised about 200 billion tons of Bikini Atoll coral reef, turning much of it into radioactive fallout that spread all over the world. The worst of it sprinkled over atolls to the east, killing many people from radiation sickness. Today, the 250-foot-deep (76 metre deep), 1-mile-wide (1.6 km wide) crater left by the blast is visible from space. If North Korea decides to blow up a hydrogen or thermonuclear device – and the most powerful in the Pacific – we could only hope it is not close to the ground.
Missile or no missile?
All of these scenarios assume North Korea sets off a thermonuclear device in a controlled way – via aeroplane, barge, balloon, or some kind of stationary platform. But the risk to people also largely depends on whether or not North Korea launches a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile or a shorter-range rocket, such as one launched from a submarine.
If successful, such a missile test would show North Korea has miniaturised its weapons. And if the blast appears to be caused by a hydrogen bomb, it would show North Korea could pull off a devastating thermonuclear strike on US soil. But missiles are prone to failure in multiple ways, especially those in early development. A North Korean ICBM tipped with a nuclear warhead might miss its target by a significant distance, or explode en route.
This could lead to detonation in an unintended place and altitude. This is especially true if the missile has no self-destruct capability – ICBMs maintained by the US don’t. In that case, only hacking the missile’s software in mid-air, or destroying it with another weapon, could stop the launch.
“The stakes and heat in this conflict have not been this high since the Korean War,” Tristan Webb, a senior analyst for NK News, said in a story published by the outlet on Friday. “Kim Jong Un said in July that the … showdown was entering its final phase. He appears psychologically prepared for conflict.”
This article was originally published by Business Insider.