Xenon, an element that is found in trace amounts after nuclear weapons tests and other nuclear activities, was detected by a South Korean nuclear regulatory expert organization in June, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety detected the presence of the gaseous element three times in June, sources told the wire service.
A nuclear weapons test by North Korea was conducted in February, but no signs of nuclear activity emanated from the North around the time the gas was discovered, according to Yonhap. Xenon isotopes break down relatively quickly, so the detected gas may not be from any recent nuclear activity from the North, according to a source for the Korean wire service. The rare isotopes found over South Korea could have originated in Japan, from radiation leaks stemming from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Relevant agencies are conducting an analysis, and that’s what we know of,” a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told the Journal.
A North Korean announcement in April that a reactor and uranium enrichment plant at the Yongbyon complex would be activated has not been detected by the South, according to Yonhap’s sources, but the facility could have begun the start-up process in May.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s special representative for peace and security affairs left the Asian nation for a three-day trip to Russia, where he will meet with Russia’s top negotiator for Pyongyang’s denuclearization, Yonhap also reported.
“I plan to share detailed opinions on how to assess North Korea’s nuclear programs and threats and discuss how to push ahead with efforts to denuclearize the North during this visit,” the South Korean envoy told Yonhap.
A seventh round of meetings between the North and the South over the future of the shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex will begin on Wednesday. Negotiations will hinge on making progress on conditions that South Korea asserts are necessary to prevent work stoppages in the future, Yonhap reported separately on Tuesday.
North Korea is also attempting to improve diplomatic ties with various countries in Africa, in a move that observers say is an attempt to escape the global isolation that the Asian nation has faced during its pursuit of nuclear weapons, according to another Yonhap report.
What We're Following See More »
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."
One of the main reasons for the recent Obamacare premium hikes is that many potential enrollees have simply decided to pay the tax penalty for remaining uninsured, rather than pay for insurance. More than 8 million people paid the penalty in 2014, and preliminary numbers for 2015 suggest that the number approaches 6 million. "For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that "there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices—appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election." Speaking to reporters in Colorado, Cruz said: "I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”