Posted by: ctbtonewsroom | October 3, 2017

The Aussie researchers keeping a close eye on North Korea from an outback shed by 9News

Originally aired on 9News on 2 October 2017, the video segment and news report feature the CTBTO IMS station in Warramunga, Australia, where a group of researchers from Australian National University in cooperation with CTBTO monitor the earth for nuclear explosions. Watch the full video on 9News.com.au.

 

They’re a long way from North Korea, but from inside an isolated tin shed in the Australian outback, a group of Australian National University researchers are keeping a close eye on the rogue nation.

As tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula, the researchers know exactly where and when Kim Jong Un has tested nuclear weapons – and just how big the explosions are getting.

The team at Warramunga Station, located in the central Northern Territory, are part of a global network, detecting and monitoring nuclear tests around the world.

The monitoring station is located in the central Northern Territory. (9NEWS)

The monitoring station is located in the central Northern Territory. (9NEWS)

They are fulfilling Australia’s commitment to the United Nations Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which aims to stop nuclear experiments.

“The whole point of having international monitoring is to have instruments distributed around the globe, so big countries cannot hide an explosion,” ANU’s Head of Seismology, Associate Professor Hrvoje Tkalcic, told 9NEWS.

“No one could hide one at this point, I would say.”

The station’s seismometers are spread across 20 kilometres of land near Tennant Creek, and are used to detect explosions on the ground.

It’s also equipped with infrasound sensors, which pick up atmospheric waves from blasts in the air.

“When we’re recording nuclear blasts from a long distance away…the explosion will create waves that will travel out from that explosion,” Dr Michelle Salmon, from ANU’s School of Earth Sciences, said.

“You’ll actually see the ground move up and down, or sideways. That’s what we’re recording.”

The equipment is sensitive enough to detect nuclear explosions, earthquakes and storms, from the other side of the world.

The data it records appears on monitors inside the station, before it’s bounced by satellite to United Nations scientists in Vienna. There, scientists analyse it, along with data recorded by other detecting stations. Warramunga Station detected all six of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

The first, which took place in 2006, recorded a magnitude of 4.3. The most recent, which happened just weeks ago, on September 3, recorded a magnitude 6.3.

“That makes it approximately 100 times larger,” Associate Professor Tkalcic said.

“The tests are getting bigger and bigger.”

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said North Korea’s most recent test shows the country has made rapid progress.

“This is a new threat and this is a global threat,” International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano warned.

Which means the work that happens at Warramunga – and other detecting stations around the world – is arguably more crucial than ever.

“It’s getting close to some event that could actually kill hundreds of people, due to the damage,” Assoc. Prof. Tkalcic said.

Watch the full video on 9News.com.au.


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