Xenon-133 isotope previously connected to Pyongyang’s nuclear program
Trace amounts of xenon gas have been detected in South Korea following North Korea’s test Sunday of a purported thermonuclear device.
According to South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC), minute levels of the radionuclide were found Friday during analysis of land, air and water samples.
The commission will attempt to find “how the xenon entered South Korean territory” and whether the material can be linked to Pyongyang.
While xenon, a colorless and odorless gas, is naturally occurring, the NSSC’s sample was that of Xenon-133 – an isotope which has previously been connected to North Korea’s nuclear tests.
“As a result of an analysis of the samples gathered by September 8, samples of Xenon-133 radionuclides were detected on the permanently attached devices on the Earth’s surface,” a statement from the NSSC said.
The statement went on to stress that the xenon, detected at 0.43 milibecquerel per cubic meter or 0.03 mBq/㎥, poses no danger to “South Korea’s territory or population.”
The test Sunday of an alleged hydrogen bomb, Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test to date, produced a 6.3 magnitude earthquake and a suspected cave-in at the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site – fueling fears of a potential radiation leak.
China similarly began emergency monitoring for radiation along its border with North Korea following the nuclear test.
Pyongyang had released photos hours prior to the detonation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting the alleged “H-bomb.”
The nuclear device was reportedly designed to fit atop Pyongyang’s Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Experts fear the rogue nation may now be capable of reaching the United States mainland with a nuclear-tipped long-ranged missile following its two ICBM tests in July.
The South Korean government believes North Korea could launch another ICBM on the 64th anniversary of the Kim regime’s founding this Saturday.