Monitoring Nuclear Tests

Monday, October 9th 2006, 11:12 am
By: News On 6

Scientists in Oklahoma will also be keeping an eye on any future tests by North Korea.

News on 6 reporter Chris Wright says just as it has for decades, the Oklahoma Geological Survey will be paying close attention to any nuclear test conducted anywhere in the world.

After hearing about North Korea's apparent nuclear test, geophysicist Jim Lawson rushed to the Oklahoma Geological Society office in Leonard in the middle of the night. But he says the test was too weak for his seismographs to pick up. "The signal was just way too small, but in no way was it hidden, there are the stations in Japan, Russia, China and so on.”

Lawson also says two stations in America, one in Alaska and the other in Nevada, did pick up the test. Scientists on Monday are analyzing seismic data from the explosion, and believe it was likely a small nuclear device.

The North Korea nuclear test was not large enough to show up at the Oklahoma Geological Survey office, but they say if they continue to test bigger bombs, they will show up "Our instruments could have recorded it if there had been nothing but the signal, but it was swallowed by the normal earth noise."

Lawson is no stranger to nuclear tests. He says he has monitored more than 1,000 during his 35 years with the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In the late 80's, he even worked with Soviet officials visiting the United States after both nations signed an underground nuclear testing treaty. But he has not had to worry much about tests since then. "Since 1990, we haven't paid any attention to nuclear tests because there haven't been any."

Lawson says he will keep an eye on North Korea, but if he had it his way, he would only study earthquakes. "It would be better not to have them at all, it would be better not to have the nuclear test yesterday."

To register at the Leonard station, the Lawson says North Korea would have to test a 20 kilo-ton nuclear bomb. Scientists estimate that the bomb used in Sunday's test was one kilo-ton or smaller.