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Test or No Test: Questions Remain

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Unread 04.11.12, 06:13 PM
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Test or No Test: Questions Remain

On 04.11.12 04:48 PM posted by Michaela Bendikova

On April 10, The Heritage Foundation hosted an event titled “Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Questions and Challenges.” This event is a critical contribution to the debate about the state of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, the proper role of U.S. nuclear weapons, and the need for modernization of the increasingly obsolescent nuclear weapons complex.

Below are some of the important highlights from the event:

Ambassador C. Paul Robinson, former president of the Sandia Corporation, former director of the Sandia National Laboratories
Allowing other nations to perform scaled experiments, giving them the ability to continue to do experiment proof testing of their stockpiled nuclear arsenals to show they are still working, while the U.S. is restricted to only “surveillance examinations” on weapons which otherwise must sit on the shelves—you don’t always get the symptoms to show themselves, of underlying difficulties, just as in most medical defects that we are all familiar with. And for this reason, allowing other to have supreme confidence while we do not is certainly a mistake, and for that reason alone I am proud that we did not ratify that flawed treaty.…

One curious weakness in judgment that I‘ll point out here is: There are extensive discussions in several places in the report, on the assumption that if a nation wanted to clandestinely carry out evasive tests, they would choose do so within their nuclear test site. Now, this is exactly the opposite of what our intelligence community believes. They would never attempt to go to an area that we are most heavily monitoring to carry out such an explosion, but certainly countries with large territorial masses would find some very remote areas in which to conduct their test, not only because of the ability of great secrecy there, but they are the farthest away from any U.S. monitoring systems.…

I feel very sure that the CTBT [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] will never enter into force even if were the U.S. to ratify it, which I don’t recommend, of course.…

Lastly, the CTBT for the first time takes a major step in changing diplomacy and would surrender major strategic defense decisions to an international body, a subgroup of the United Nations.

John Foster, former director of defense research and engineering for the Department of Defense and former director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Of paramount interest are the recommended actions that should be implemented by the Administration and supported by the Congress.…

Then in 1995 the Stockpile Stewardship Program was established to invigorate the activities in the nuclear weapons laboratories. That program produced some very significant scientific advances; however, it failed to provide the necessary surveillance of the aging warheads, and it was prevented by Congress from pursuing the Reliable Replacement Warhead, the Nuclear Penetrating Warhead, and any “new” designs. Those actions denied the nuclear weapons labs the opportunity to develop and demonstrate competence from the design through production and flight test.…

Of particular concern is the plan and schedule of Life Extensions of the stockpile warheads that have been executed so infrequently that the average age of our nuclear warheads has increased over the last 20 years.…

A five-year budget was submitted that would reverse the general decline of the last 20 years. Unfortunately, the past financial trends have not yet been reversed. And for two reasons: First, the Congress reduced the FY [fiscal year] 2011 request, and [second] the financial crisis is causing the Admin and the Congress to make further reductions.…

Senate ratification of CTBT would further delay modernization of the nuclear deterrent.…

A second Senate rejection of CTBT ratification would again present the opportunity for Congress to muster the political support and modernization of our nuclear deterrent.

Thomas Scheber, vice president, National Institute for Public Policy and former director of strategic strike policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense
If we look at the NRC report, they talk a lot about detection. Detection is very different than verification. Detection alerts us to the fact that we need to investigate and, perhaps, conduct an on-site inspection. That on-site inspection can’t be conducted if the treaty has not entered into force and if the 30 of the 51 member states of the executive council haven’t agreed to authorize an on-site inspection.…

One of the two main technical issues that the NRC report dealt with was that of detection capabilities, a very important topic, and there is a lot of very good information in there, but once again the issue of detection does not mean the treaty is verifiable.…

France’s story is after we stopped testing, they continued testing. They continued until 1996, when they completed their nuclear test series, which would enable them to baseline, design, and invalidate computer codes for a new series of nuclear warheads, similar to reliable replacement warheads the U.S. has not been able to field because Congress won’t approve the funding for it. The French are producing and deploying these warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and on their air-delivery weapons.…

Certainly, there is little evidence that our ceasing nuclear testing in 1992 has had any rallying effect on causing others to forego development/modernization of their nuclear arsenals or testing. The NRC report is silent on these issues.

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