U.S. 'Dragnet' Hunts for Nuke Clues

So how does the Pentagon figure out if the Nork nuke test was a dud or not? By directing "a dragnet of aircraft, ships, seismic listening posts, spy satellites, and other intelligence-gathering systems to glean as much as possible about the size [and nature] of the detonation," the Boston Globe says.031019-F-0000J-002.jpg

While North Korea said yesterday that no radioactive material had leaked out, the Air Force Technical Applications Center, based in Florida, flew special aircraft downwind from the test site near the Chinese border to try to catch any radioactive material that might have been vented into the atmosphere.According to the Air Force, the WC-135W "Constant Phoenix" planes "collect particulate and gaseous effluents and debris from accessible regions of the atmosphere" to be analyzed by military specialists and the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons laboratories.These samples would allow the national weapons laboratories such as Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia to determine whether Pyongyang used plutonium or uranium in the blast.Meanwhile, the United States has activated a special Air Force detachment located at South Korea's seismic listening post in Wonju, close to the border with North Korea, officials said.The main objective of the collection effort is to use the data to make a more accurate assessment than ever before about the sophistication of North Korea's outlawed weapons program and to find out how close the nation might be to mounting a nuclear warhead on one of its long-range missiles.
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