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Did North Korea really achieve clean fusion?  (Source: Lee Jin-Man/Associated Press)

Inside the reactor core of one of North Korea's nuclear plants  (Source: AP)
Many scientists are discounting that the secretive dictatorship made a true breakthrough

A mystery is emerging on the Korean peninsula.  The nation of North Korea, which has long been suspected of developing nuclear weapons, announced on May 12 that it had achieved clean nuclear fusion and was ready to began rolling out virtually free power.  The claim did not receive that much serious attention because it was simply so unbelievable.

Now the mystery has deepened, with the South Korean government scientists revealing that they detected abnormal levels of radioactive xenon gas -- eight times above the normal background level -- only two days after the fusion announcement.

It seems highly unlikely that the fusion reaction occurred as North Korea claims as fission typically produces large isotopes, while fusion uses small atoms like deuterium (a hydrogen isotope).  Granted, many scientists have theorized that fission can be tied to fusion to create hybrid reactors and such reactors 
would likely be capable of producing heavy isotopes.

Professor David Hinde, who is the department head of nuclear physics at The Australian National University says the release is more likely to have come from a traditional fission device.  He states, "It would have to be man-generated unless one came up with some very unusual alternative scenario. The lifetime of those radioactive xenon isotopes, they're not terribly long. So it could not be anything that came naturally, I would say.  Heavy xenon isotopes could be a signature of a fission device of some kind."

The easiest explanation would be that North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test.  It revealed in 2008 that it has several nuclear weapons stockpiled.  However, such a test would have created seismic activity and South Korean officials detected no corresponding seismic events.

Xenon is colorless, odorless, and largely inert noble gas thats found in minute levels in the atmosphere.  The noble gases xenon and krypton are typically used to detect nuclear activity.  The levels of gas detected by South Korea are a clear marker of nuclear activity, but do not pose a health risk to citizens.

North Korea 
did conduct nuclear weapons tests in 2006, which were detected.  It received international condemnation for these tests and UN sanctions.

For now, though, it's unclear exactly what happened in the mysterious nation of North Korea.  While it's highly unlikely the nation has discovered the holy grail of renewable energy, something that has eluded the best researchers in the U.S. and abroad, at this point there are no definitive answers.



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RE: eluded the best researchers
By JediJeb on 6/25/2010 3:36:29 PM , Rating: 2
I know all about how fusion works, the term power amplifier I used was more or less a layman's term to describe what is happening in the end result.

It takes a great deal of power to make a fusion reaction go and sustain it. In a sense any power you get out of the reaction that is above and beyond the power you put in to create the reaction would be a bonus. It does consume hydrogen or helium so it is not free power, but you are in a simplified term using that fuel to increase the power you are putting into the system thus amplifying it.

A fusion reactor would not really "burn" the hydrogen or helium as fuel, they would act more as a lever to amplify the power put in, since without the power being put in the reaction would not go. If you can make a fusion reactor that takes 1kW of energy per hour to sustain the fusion reaction and you receive out of that reactor 2kW of energy per hour, then you have in a sense amplified your initial energy using hydrogen. But if you stop putting in the energy the reaction ceases. Only if you can somehow use 1kw of energy produced to self sustain the reaction then you would have something workable, but it still takes a large amount of outside energy to start the reactor if ever stopped.

If you really think about it, in the Sun the fuel is hydrogen and the supplied power is gravity. If gravity did not exist the Sun would cease to give off any energy.


RE: eluded the best researchers
By spread on 6/28/2010 9:37:23 AM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about?

There is no POWER AMPLIFICATION. The device uses up fuel. The ENERGY IS PRODUCED FROM THE FUEL used up in the reaction. Right now energy must be supplied externally because he efficiency threshold for the reactor to power itself hasn't been discovered.

In the sun, the supplied power is not gravity, otherwise why is Jupiter not a flaming ball of fire? There's more to fusion than that.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














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