North Korea’s nuclear test site ‘leaking radiation’ via The Times

North Koreans who lived near the country’s former nuclear test site show signs of exposure to high levels of radiation, adding to concerns that the site is leaking fallout from six underground explosions.

The South Korean government had detected high levels of radioactivity on the bodies of ten defectors from near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, a Seoul newspaper reported.

The Chosun Ilbo said that tests by the Ministry for Unification revealed that the ten had radiation levels above 250 millisieverts, large enough to cause genetic abnormalities.


North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests at Punggye-ri since 2006, each one more powerful than the last. For several years there have been warnings about radiation leaks from the 2,205m high Mount Mantap, beneath which the test tunnels have been dug, and rumours that vegetation in the area has been dying and children are being born with defects.

Chinese geologists and the head of South Korea’s meteorological agency warned two years ago that underground nuclear tests could cause Mount Mantap to collapse, which would lead to radioactivity being leaked into the atmosphere.


North Korea’s last nuclear test, in September 2017, was its biggest so far, with a yield estimated to be as high as 160 kilotons, compared to 18 kilotons for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

The explosion itself caused a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, and was followed eight minutes later by another tremor of magnitude 4.6, apparently caused by rock collapses within the mountain. Two similar tremors occurred in the following month.

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