After 200 people were reportedly killed following a series of tunnel collapses at a North Korean nuclear test site, AccuWeather is now warning that winds could carry leaked radiation from the area toward northern Japan.
Heightened concerns about radiation contamination reaching Japan come as The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, and others report "there are indications that North Korean soldiers are being treated at a hospital for radiation exposure" from "Pyongyang's six nuclear tests at its Punggye-ri site," which "have weakened the mountain in the area to such an extent that radioactive substances could spew out from the next test."
Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather founder and president, warns that "as winds pick up out of the northwest over the next few days, it is possible that any radiation that leaks from the site could be carried and dispersed across the Sea of Japan [East Sea] and even to the Japanese islands."
AccuWeather reports that the greatest potential threats are to the Japanese islands of Hokkaido and Honshu—the largest and most populous island of Japan—with the possibility of radiation reaching areas farther south over the weekend.
According to AccuWeather research, Pyongyang conducted the tests at Punggye-ri when wind conditions were light, which Myers suggests may be intentional.
"One might speculate that North Korea conducted these nuclear tests purposefully on days with light wind conditions," he said, "so that any resulting radiation leakage would remain within its borders and would go undetected internationally."
However, as soldiers who work at the Punggye-ri test site and their families are reportedly being treated for radiation exposure from the tests, and the residents of North Korea's neighboring countries become increasingly alarmed that the radiation could spread over the next few days, experts are also warning of dangers posed by future tests.
Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday that Nam Jae-cheol, the South Korean administrator of the Korea Meteorological Administration, told his country's National Assembly, "If additional nuclear tests are conducted, there is the possibility (of radioactive materials leaking out)," and that more radioactive material could be released if the site collapses in an earthquake.