Foreign Policy Health

North Korea’s Nuclear Testing Site Has Collapsed Killing Nearly 200 People and Fueling Fears of Radiation Leaks

On November 1st, Japanese television confirmed reports that the mountain used by North Korea for nuclear tests has collapsed killing nearly 200 people. Many scientists fear that large amounts of radiation are leaking from the mountain, and the potential fallout path could put millions of people in neighboring countries such as South Korea, China and Japan at risk for radiation poisoning.

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Mt. Mantap in relation to South Korea and Japan. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

North Korea’s Puggye-ri testing site is located inside Mt. Mantap. Many scientists have warned for months of the mountain’s growing instability as a result of the frequent testing of nuclear warheads, and their fears of collapse were confirmed via satellite images and reports from Japan. South Korea has not confirmed the report, but the satellite images confirm the collapse and destruction of North Korea’s nuclear testing facility inside Mt. Mantap. Japanese media reported that North Korea’s sixth nuclear test this year caused the mountain to collapse, trapping and killing 100 people working inside  a tunnel deep in the mountain. An estimated 100 more people were killed during a rescue operation to save those trapped inside the testing site.

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Map of North Korea’s Puggye-ri nuclear testing site inside Mt. Mantap. Satellite image courtesy of Google Earth. Diagrams and annotation courtesy of 38 North.

However, the problem that many scientists are most concerned about is the possibility of large amounts of radioactive material leaking out of the facility. Large amounts of radioactive material are suspected to be stored there, and the potential fallout could put millions in North Korea and in surrounding countries at risk for radiation poisoning. Many scientists think that North Korea does not have the tools to contain the nuclear material, making the possibility of leaking radioactive material an international crisis.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Korean Central News Agency/AFP/Getty Images.

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