U.S. Sparks New Subcritical Testing Race with Russians
September 29, 2012
In 1997, five years after its last underground nuclear test, the U.S. Department of Energy conducted its first subcritical nuclear test. Back then, critics said that the subcritical test program was creating a crisis of confidence in the negotiations over the CTBT because nations such as India and Indonesia strongly felt that such experiments should be included in the activities banned by the treaty. Critics also feared that because of the nature of these experiments on plutonium (e.g. conducted underground, there is no visible flash, seismic signal or 'gas signature'), one country's conduct of a subcritical test might easily be seen by another as a very low yield nuclear test. Even without creating a 'yield,' which would categorize a nuclear experiment as a nuclear explosion, experts and even government documents agree that subcritical tests can be used beyond their stated purpose, to study the aging properties of plutonium. They could be used for developing new nuclear weapons. Although it hasn't been yet proven that any country has used subcritical tests for this latter purpose, do we want to wait around and find out (the CTBT doesn't actually ban subcritical nuclear tests)?
As was seen during the Cold War, the nuclear arms race closely resembled the feverish pace of the nuclear testing race. We should know from history that whenever one superpower begins conducting a lot of nuclear weapons-related tests, then the other superpower or superpowers, with nothing to lose by staying in lock-step, follow suit. What is worrisome with the subcritical nuclear test race now beginning between the U.S. and Russia is that the chances of one thing leading to another - resuming subcritical tests leading to full-scale nuclear testing resumption - substantially increase. In 1998, the U.S. had increased its rate of subcritical testing by 50% from 1997 levels and nuclear experts noted that the Soviets met this ramp-up with an increase in their own subcritical tests at their nuclear test site in Novaya Zemlya; in October 1998, the Soviets conducted a subcritical test underground at Novaya Zemlya on the same day the U.S. carried out one in Nevada. We're lucky that in the fourteen years since, in the absence of a CTBT-in-force, there hasn't been a resumption of nuclear testing.
The U.S. took a long 'break' from subcritical testing from 2006 to 2010 and little was heard then about the programs of other countries known to have a subcritical testing program - China, Russia, and France. Since 2010, the U.S. has 'shot' off three subcritical tests and has plans in late 2012 for 'Pollux,' a 'first-of-a-kind demonstration' combining a 'scaled subcritical experiment' with plutonium-239. Pollux is called a subcritical nuclear experiment because it will be held underground and use larger-than-normal (but nevertheless 'small') amounts of plutonium-239 fuel than used in ordinary hydrodynamic tests. However, it is the first such 'scaled' subcritical test by the U.S. because it will involve a scale model of a warhead primary (using plutonium-239 nuclear material). This is provocative because Pollux will be the closest thing to a full-scale nuclear test that the U.S. has carried out since its last nuclear explosion 20 years ago. (Read more in 'NNSA Keeps Conducting 'Nuclear Tests' and Mentioning Them Well After the Fact'.) This author has seen an uptick in the visitors to this website from China - presumably defense chiefs or nuclear scientists - who are interested in (or worried about) this very controversial 'scaled' subcritical test. In Russia, the interest in 'Pollux' apparently has already tipped the scales of restraint. On September 28, 2012, the Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta printed an article by Vladimir Mukhin titled 'Nuclear Umbrella for the Arctic' (or 'Nuclear Umbrella for Arctic Region') which notes that Russia's defense ministry is planning to beef up security at its former nuclear test site (at Novaya Zemlya) while considering restarting a subcritical nuclear testing program for ensuring the reliability of the Russian nuclear stockpile. But that's not all. The article also notes that, for Russia, subcritical experiments are important for verification of the properties of new types of nuclear weapons. The article, however, quotes one Russian think-tank researcher who says subcritical tests can't be useful in new weapons work without full-scale nuclear testing. That may be true for Russia, but the U.S. nuclear weapons complex's 'Green Book' (see above-linked article 'NNSA Keeps....') says the opposite. The Russian article also notes that the Arctic nuclear test site, like its 'nemesis' site in the State of Nevada, is maintained by a 'readiness' program for the possibility of nuclear weapons testing resumption.
What we're seeing in real-time in September 2012 is a replay of 1998. The U.S. is ramping up the rate and provocativeness of its subcritical testing program while Russia is readying for 'something' at its Novaya Zemlya site. (In August 2012, Russia banned civilian use of the airspace over the archipelago, which has a resident population of 2,900.) Fortifying the Arctic former nuclear test site with deadly navy and air military assets, Russia is preparing for, at least, resumed subcritical testing, if not something worse. It's all really too bad. If the CTBT banned subcritical nuclear tests, then we wouldn't be hearing about this worrisome development and what may lay in store for us. In 1997, an article in the 'Disarmament Times' paraphrased the comments made about subcritical testing by the foreign minister of Indonesia at a U.N. meeting: 'Unless the nuclear powers desisted from sub-critical tests and computer simulations to design new weapons, there could be a resumption of the nuclear arms race and a revival risk of global disaster.'(1) So, now we have to live with the consequences of a renewed subcritical nuclear test race that was sparked by the U.S. with a little help of a test ban treaty that's simply not comprehensive enough to do the job.
(1) As paraphrased in 'Assembly Debates Show Continuing Stalemate on Disarmament Priorities,' by plenary speech of Foreign Minister Ali Alatas of Indonesia during the 52nd U.N. General Assembly.
Nuclear Umbrella for the Arctic
The landfill in the New Earth is prepared for subcritical nuclear explosions
Russian military and political leadership to strengthen efforts to defend and protect the former nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya. In the near future there will place defense units, as well as all-weather aircraft. In the waters of the archipelago will bear alert ships of the Northern Fleet. The increased attention to security in the region is not accidental. In addition to economic problems here in the interest of national defense will be deployed research work. Sources of "NG" Rosatom reported the possibility of resuming the New Earth so-called subcritical experiments to determine the safety and security of nuclear weapons (nuclear warheads), the life of which is expected to roll over the Armed Forces.
Non-nuclear explosive (subcritical) Russia experiments conducted in the past. In such experiments investigated components of a nuclear bomb (plutonium or uranium). But these "explosions" are not accompanied by a chain reaction and theoretically lead to the release of radioactivity. These experiments do not contradict the content of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Russia has signed and ratified one of the first. After 1990, Russia did not make a single nuclear explosion. In the New Earth is already in post-Soviet times subcritical experiments were conducted to determine the reliability of nuclear warheads. Currently, this problem is even more acute, because, according to official data, the Ministry of Defense, about 70% of nuclear warheads - old samples (see "NG" on 9/27/12 ). To continue to operate and require research. Should reveal how aged filling warheads, whether it is reliable, etc. In addition, the non-nuclear explosion experiments are important for testing the properties of new types of nuclear weapons, which in the country, of course, created and perfected.
Though, according to a leading researcher at the Center for International Security IMEMO, Major General retired Vladimir Belous, "with the help of alternative methods may provide the safety and security of nuclear weapons, but to create a new type of weapon without full-scale testing is practically impossible." Probably not coincidentally, visiting in 2006 at Novaya Zemlya test site, the then defense minister and now head of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Ivanov said that the landfill is maintained in constant readiness and possible resumption of nuclear testing at any time. He then drew attention to the fact that some major nuclear powers have not ratified the treaty banning nuclear tests - and, they say, comes from the realities of Russia and in the interests of their security if necessary, can also initiate such tests.
However, while Russia, like other countries, has refrained from large-scale testing of nuclear weapons. Although it does not reject non-nuclear explosion experiments. In this case, the test base, that is, a polygon in the New Earth, must be protected. The media has already released information that the Defense Ministry to the end of 2013, intends to place on the airfield "Rogachevo" the New Earth Group interceptor MiG-31.
Aircraft will protect Russia's borders from air attack from the north. Air Group will be part of a country created in the missile defense system. If necessary, the MiG-31 will have to intercept enemy aircraft and cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. Zone interception - from the Barents Sea to the Laptev Sea. These problems are not new for aviators.
In the days of the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet period (until 1993) at the airport "Rogachevo" already based fighter aircraft, performing tasks cover the nuclear test site from the air. Now these problems are solved again. In addition, since 2012 in the Arctic resumed activities related to the combat training of troops. According to the press service of the Western Military District (WEST), these activities involve tactical amphibious landings "in the economically important regions of the Arctic with the task of preventing terrorist attacks in the Russian industrial and research facilities located at a distance of more than two thousand miles from their permanent dislocation."
Sources of "NG" in the Defense Ministry reported that during the period ended yesterday in the North under the direction WEST commander Colonel General Arkady Bahini exercises interspecific troops and forces of the Northern Fleet handles tasks in the waters of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. By maneuvers were attracted more than 7 thousand military personnel, more than 20 surface ships and submarines, 30 aircraft and 150 military vehicles. Teaching episodes were played out in the Barents and Kara seas, coastal sites in Pechenga Murmansk region and the Middle Peninsula and Fishermen, as well as in several other parts of the Arctic.
Testing ground on Novaya Zemlya
Novaya Zemlya - northern extension of the Ural Mountains that separate Europe and Asia. The archipelago consists of two islands, separated by the Strait Matochkin. Both islands are 900 km in length and have an area of 82,179 square meters. Several small islands cover an area of about 1,000 square meters. km. Inhabited mainly by the military, scientists and military builders Rosatom - a little over two thousand people. The landfill is subject to the 12th Main Directorate of the Defense Ministry, is responsible for storage and maintenance of nuclear weapons.
The landfill opened on 17 September 1954. Its center is located in Belushya Bay. Nearby is the airfield "Rogachevo." From 21 September 1955 to 24 October 1990 (the official date of the moratorium on nuclear testing) at the site were produced 135 nuclear explosions: 87 in the atmosphere (of which 84 aircraft, one ground, two surface), three submarines and 42 underground explosion. Were held and powerful megaton nuclear tests conducted in the atmosphere over the archipelago.
as translated by MicrosoftTranslator.com
Nuclear Umbrella for the Arctic
Polygon on Earth prepare to podkritičeskim nuclear explosions
Russian military-political leadership strengthens measures for the defence and protection of the former nuclear test site at Novaya Zemlya Archipelago. In the nearest future there will place air defense units, as well as all-weather aircraft. In the waters of the archipelago will alert ships of the northern fleet. Increased attention to security in the region. In addition to economic challenges here in the interests of defence will be rolled out scientific and research work. NG's sources in Rosatom reported on the possibility of resuming the new Earth the so-called subcritical experiments to determine the reliability and safety of nuclear munitions (NUCLEAR), whose life in the armed forces is supposed to roll over.
Non-explosive (subcritical) experiments conducted and Russia before. When such experiments explores the components of a nuclear bomb (plutonium or uranium). But these explosions are not accompanied by the emergence of a chain reaction and theoretically does not result in the release of radioactivity. These experiments do not contradict the content of the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban Treaty (CTBT), which RUSSIA has signed and ratified one of the first. Since 1990, Russia has not conducted a single nuclear explosion. On the new Earth already in the post-Soviet time subcritical experiments were conducted to determine the reliability of NUCLEAR MUNITIONS. At present, the task is even more relevant because, according to the official data of the Ministry of Defense, about 70% of NUCLEAR MUNITIONS – old designs (see. "NG" from 27.09.12). To continue their operation and requires research. Need to identify how aged fillings NUCLEAR MUNITIONS, whether it is reliable, etc. in addition, non-explosive experiments are important for verification of properties of new types of nuclear weapons, which, naturally, is created and improved.
Although, as the senior researcher of the Center for international security of the IMEMO, retired Maj.-Gen. Vladimir belous, "using alternative methods may ensure the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons, but create a new type of weapons without full-scale tests virtually impossible. Perhaps not coincidentally, visiting in 2006 year range at Novaya Zemlya, the then Defense Minister and now the head of the presidential administration of Russia Sergei Ivanov stated that the polygon is maintained in constant readiness and the resumption of nuclear testing is possible at any moment. He then drew attention to the fact that some of the major nuclear powers to ratify the Treaty for the prohibition of nuclear tests, saying that Russia understands the realities and the interests of its own security if necessary, it can also start such tests.
However, Russia, like other countries, has refrained from large-scale testing of atomic weapons. Although it does not renounce nuclear-explosive experiments. The test base, a training ground for new land should be protected. The media have already reported that the Defense Ministry until the end of 2013, intends to place on the airfield at Novaya Zemlya rogachevo» group of fighter-interceptor MiG-31.
The Jets will be to protect the borders from air attack from the North. Aviation Group will be part of the missile defense system in the country. If necessary, the MiG-31 would intercept enemy planes and cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. Zone interception from the Barents Sea to the Laptev sea. Task data to aviators are not new.
During the times of the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet period (until 1993) airfield in rogachevo» already based fighter aviation, who had performed the tasks cover nuclear test site from the air. Now these problems are solved again. In addition, 2012, in the Arctic resumed activities related to military training. According to the press service of the Western military district (LOU), these activities involve tactical amphibious landings in the economically important Arctic areas with the objective of preventing terrorist acts in the Russian industrial and research facilities, located at a distance of more than 2 thousand. km of permanent deployment."
"Sources in the Defence Ministry reported that ended yesterday in the North under the leadership of Commander Colonel General Arkady LOU Bakhina teachings of interspecific groupings of troops and forces of the northern fleet exercises in waters of the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya. The manoeuvres were tried over 7 thousand. personnel, more than 20 ships and submarines, about 30 aircraft and 150 pieces of equipment. The episodes were played out in the teachings of the Barents and Kara Seas, coastal ranges in Pechenga, Murmansk oblast and in the middle and Rybachy peninsulas, as well as in several other areas of the Arctic.
Polygon on Earth
The archipelago of Novaya Zemlya is the Northern continuation of the Ural mountains that separate Asia and Europe. The archipelago consists of two islands, separated by the Strait of Matochkin Shar. Both islands are 900 km in length and have an area of 82179 sq. km. A few small islands cover an area of about 1000 m2. km. Inhabited mainly by scientists of Rosatom and the military builders – a little more than 2 thousand. man. The landfill is subject to the 12-th main Directorate of defence responsible for the storage and maintenance of nuclear munitions.
The landfill is open September 17, 1954. Its Center is located in Beluš′ej Bay. «Rogachevo airfield nearby. From September 21, 1955, October 24, 1990, (the official date of the moratorium on nuclear tests) at the test site was 135 nuclear explosions: 87 (84 of them air, one land, two surface ships), three submarines and 42 underground explosion. Were held and powerful megatonnye tests of nuclear devices in the atmosphere over the archipelago.