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Atomic-blast detection station established near Iran
By Jonathan Tirone
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A United Nations group seeking to outlaw nuclear-weapons tests has set up a detection facility near the border between Iran and Turkmenistan that can register the shockwaves of an atomic blast.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization built seismic station PS44 near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a “few kilometers” from the Central Asian country’s southern border with Iran, the Vienna-based group said yesterday in a statement on its Web site. The site adds to the group’s 337 stations worldwide designed to detect seismic activity and atmospheric radiation caused by nuclear explosions.
UN inspectors received intelligence material that included Iranian designs for a 400-meter (1,312-foot) deep shaft that could be used for testing a nuclear bomb, the world body’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in May 2008. The documents also showed plans for a control station 10 kilometers from the unidentified blast site, along with diagnostic equipment to monitor an explosion.
Iran has rejected IAEA requests to discuss the test-site design. The U.S. and several major allies say that Iran’s nuclear program is cover for weapons development, an allegation denied by the government in Tehran, which says the work is for peaceful purposes such as electricity generation. Iran says that the documents on the possible test site are fake.
Iran is one the nine countries that have yet to ratify the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. There have been more than 2,000 nuclear test explosions worldwide since the Manhattan Project’s Trinity trial in the U.S. in July 1945. The last detonation occurred May 25, when North Korea said it conducted a test, an event that was detected at 61 of the UN organization’s seismic stations.
The other eight countries that must ratify the treaty for it to come into force are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the U.S.
The UN can detect a blast as small as 2.75 on the Richter scale, the treaty organization’s director, Tibor Toth, said in a report issued last month. A 1-kiloton blast, equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT, registers 4 on the Richter scale.
The atomic bomb that detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, at the end of World War II, was 15 kilotons and the bomb over Nagasaki, Japan, three days later had a force of 21 kilotons, according to the National Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group. The biggest nuclear weapon ever tested was the Soviet Union’s 50 megaton “Tsar-bomb,” detonated in October 1961.