U.S. lawmakers propose new nuclear test ban

Military Technology

A nuclear blast detonated at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s.

MYSTERY WIRE — Unites State’s lawmakers have proposed a new ban to all future nuclear testing that produces any yield. The U.S. has not tested an armed nuclear weapon since 1992. But according to reports published over the last couple months, the current White House administration has inquired about restarting a nuclear testing program.

In May, a top defense department nuclear official said a live nuclear test could be arranged within “months” if requested by the president. This is according to an article on defensenews.com.

This official was Drew Walter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters. He said while it has been asked, there “has been no policy change” when it comes to avoiding live nuclear testing.

On June 8, Congressman Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NF) introduced the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act. The U.S. senate version of the plan was introduced by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

The Washington Post reported the Trump administration had the discussion with top security officials on May 15 in response to accusations that Russia and China were performing low-yield nuclear tests. A claim both countries have denied.

The Post wrote an anonymous senior administration official said that a “rapid test” could “offer leverage in arms negotiations with Russia and China, as the White House pushes for a trilateral arms control deal.”

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The proposed PLANET Act would prevent the administration from restarting explosive nuclear testing, according to a news release from Rep. Horsford’s office. The act would restrict funds for fiscal year 2021 and all previous years from being used for such a purpose.

In the release, Horsford’s office also wrote the act would allow for stockpile stewardship activities that are consistent with U.S. law – such as certifying the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile – so long as those activities are consistent with the “zero-yield” scope of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Currently, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-independent branch inside the Department of Energy, oversees nuclear weapon simulations and non-explosive testing through its Stockpile Stewardship program.

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Walter also told Defense News that he believes the NNSA has a spot picked out in Nevada where it could do underground testing. He did not elaborate on where in Nevada it could happen. The Nevada Test Site, less than 75 miles from Las Vegas, is where the U.S. conducted over 900 nuclear tests between 1952 and 1992.

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On May 29, a Motherboard article’s headline was Testing Nuclear Weapons Again Would Be a Terrible Idea. In it, Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, any test conducted in the near future would have no scientific merit.

The thing they are talking about is not a test. To do a test—a scientific experiment involving a nuclear weapon that was instrumented with diagnostics in order to learn something about nuclear weapons…that would take a couple of years. What they are discussing is a demonstration. They’re just putting a nuclear weapon in the shaft. Not instrumenting it at all, they’re not going to get any data from it. And just pressing the button to make a political point. They’re not even pretending that there’s any scientific value.

JEFFREY LEWIS, DIRECTOR OF THE EAST ASIA NONPROLIFERATION PROJECT AT THE MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

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