Nuclear capability gives countries immense power – power that can cause significant harm if mishandled by the wrong people. That’s why many countries strictly limit the use of nuclear power, either for electrical generation or weaponry. This seems to be a lesson North Korea is learning the hard way, after news that last year’s final nuclear weapon tests “may have caused a collapse at their Mount Mantap site,” creating an unprecedented risk for nuclear fallout in nearby countries like China and Russia.
• What we now know is that the actual collapse likely took place back in September of 2017. Chinese geological experts pinpointed significant seismic activity in the area directly after testing of a 100-kiloton warhead detonated approximately 700 meters under the ground inside the mountain.
• Researchers believe the mountain effectively “collapsed” over the detonation. It isn’t known whether anyone was inside or directly harmed by the collapse or whether North Korea was able to contain the radioactive materials.
• Scientists also believe the collapse may have resulted in cracks forming throughout the side of the mountain – cracks that may be steadily allowing nuclear fallout to spread unchecked. Such fallout could potentially reach as far as Russia or nearby China.
• The closest and most likely affected city is Baishan, in Jilin. Though considered small for a Chinese province, it is still home to approximately 1.2 million people.
• North Korean geological expert, Lee Doh-sik, also met with Chinese geologists shortly after the collapse. It isn’t clear whether the topic at hand was the collapse or something else entirely, but it’s likely that the meeting was an attempt to seek assistance.
• Satellite images secured by intelligence from multiple countries confirms the presence of nuclear fallout at least localized to the mountain. Brown-black vegetation and evidence of “radiation poisoning” in the local flora and fauna has been confirmed.
• The collapse may also explain North Korea’s sudden “change of heart” around ending their nuclear program. Officials believe it may also be why they are so willing to speak with US and South Korean diplomats.