APRIL 1995

Michael Veiluva
John Burroughs
Jacqueline Cabasso
Andrew Lichterman


About the Organizations:

WESTERN STATES LEGAL FOUNDATION (WSLF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to a peaceful and nuclear free future. We seek to abolish nuclear weapons, compel open public environmental review of hazardous nuclear technologies, and ensure appropriate management of nuclear waste. Our program challenges an array of policies which taken together risk nuclear catastrophe. Our legal, technical, and organizing activities support the growth of nonviolent public participation in shaping U.S. and global nuclear policy.

WSLF was founded in 1982 and is based in Oakland, California. It is supported by thousands of individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Western States Legal Foundation 1440 Broadway, Suite 500 Oakland, California 94612 phone 510/839-5877 fax 510/839-5397

GREENPEACE is an international environmental and peace organization that uses nonviolent direct action, expert research, lobbying, grassroots organizing, and public education to expose threats to the global environment and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace seeks to: protect biochemistry; prevent abuses and pollution of the oceans, land and air; promote safe, renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels and nuclear power; and promote peace and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Greenpeace was founded in 1971 and has offices in 31 countries. It currently has about 5 million supporters world wide.

Greenpeace 1436 U Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 phone 202/462-1177 fax 202/462-4507

Funding provided by W. Alton Jones Foundation, Greenpeace, and hundreds of individual WSLF donors.


The United States and other nuclear weapons states (NWS) are developing advanced technologies for conducting above-ground experiments (AGEX) to maintain the readiness of their arsenals of nuclear weapons. The largest and most ambitious program is planned by the United States under the name "Science Based Stockpile Stewardship" (SBSS). SBSS, and related efforts by other NWS, are intended to mitigate or overcome limitations on nuclear weapons programs imposed by the current moratorium on underground nuclear explosions as well as the anticipated Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). By the turn of the century, the United States plans to spend billions of dollars to construct and operate new facilities to preserve its capacity to maintain, test, modify, design, and certify nuclear weapons.

The development of advanced above-ground testing facilities by any nuclear state is inconsistent with treaty obligations imposed under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article VI requires the signatory nuclear states "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament. . ." The Preamble to the NPT explicitly calls for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. When the NPT was signed in 1968, the intention of the parties was to halt nuclear tests in order to stop the development of new nuclear weapons; the CTBT was to be a disarmament measure. Using new technological capacities to undermine this intent is not conducive to "negotiations in good faith". The construction of expensive new above-ground test facilities frustrates Article VI's disarmament goals by allowing the host countries to continue nuclear weapons research and testing despite the cessation of underground nuclear explosions. According to statements by government officials, the above-ground testing regime now under way in the United States is intended not only to ensure the "reliability" (that is, the performance) of existing nuclear weapons, but also to preserve the capacity to design and produce new weapons.

Fundamentally, the large scale investment the NWS in more advanced above-ground testing facilities is an effort to maintain their technological advantage in nuclear weaponry. The United States' SBSS program presumes that the United States will maintain a large, sophisticated, diverse nuclear arsenal at or near START II levels, rather than adopt a posture consistent with continuous reductions towards eventual nuclear disarmament as contemplated by Article VI of the NPT. Once the nuclear powers invest considerable political and economic capital into advanced AGEX programs, the incentive and political will to take further effective measures towards zero stockpiles will diminish. The public policy rationale of SBSS as a "hedge" against new aggressive NWS or a resurgent Russian weapons program must be called into question when viewed against the treaty commitment to nuclear disarmament made by the NWS signatories to the NPT.

To the extent that AGEX programs are planned as substitute methods for obtaining weapons design information previously derived from underground explosions, they are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The conflict between AGEX and Article VI (as well as any eventual CTBT) is even more pronounced if the United States resumes hydronuclear experiments which involve low-yield releases of fission energy. The United States and several other nuclear powers have already taken public positions arguing for "thresholds" for "permitted" nuclear explosions to allow for hydronuclear tests. The drive to permit hydronuclear testing poses the specter of a threshold test ban in lieu of a comprehensive test ban as contemplated by Article VI, or worse, an ambiguous CTBT which leaves the definition of a "permitted" test to the whim of individual nations.

The Commitment To Nuclear Disarmament

The 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons established mutual commitments and obligations between the nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states. In return for the non-nuclear states agreeing to forego nuclear weapons programs, the nuclear powers agreed in Article VI of the NPT to cooperate in halting the nuclear arms race and to proceed down the road to the complete elimination of nuclear arsenals. Article VI provides:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
The text of Article VI does not merely call for reductions in the number of weapons. Instead, as a condition to obtaining the non-NWS' commitment to forgo nuclear arsenals, it requires that the nuclear powers take affirmative steps to halt the competitive development of the weapons and to reduce existing stockpiles to zero.[1] Article VI further embraces (as recognized in the 1968 agenda established by the nuclear states) the early ratification of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a halt to production of weapons-grade fissionable materials, and binding commitments not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states (security assurances).[2]

At the present time, Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom are observing a self-imposed moratorium on below-ground nuclear explosions. The United States and Russia have also suspended mass production of weapons grade uranium and plutonium, although environmental and safety issues are among the key factors in this decision.[3] Security assurances have not been made in a form acceptable to the non-nuclear states.

The current cessation of explosive tests and production of weapons-grade fuel does not constitute sufficient compliance with Article VI; especially while the nuclear weapons states develop new capacities to conduct advanced weapons tests, maintain the capability to augment the existing large arsenals, and refuse to unambiguously and bindingly renounce first use. National programs which have as their goal the indefinite maintenance of large arsenals (including those contemplated by START II) and which continue to develop sophisticated nuclear weapons-testing technologies frustrate the NPT's objective of nuclear disarmament. Continuation of extensive "simulated" nuclear weapons testing programs also would compromise a CTBT, even more so if these programs include miniature nuclear explosions (hydronuclear tests).

U S. Above-Ground Experimental Test Programs

In the United States, responsibility for the development, testing, production, and maintenance of nuclear warheads rests with the United States Department of Energy (DOE). The Department of Energy is charged with the operation of nuclear weapons production facilities, the two principal weapons design laboratories at Livermore, California and Los Alamos, New Mexico (where the first atomic bomb was developed), the Sandia weapons engineering labs at Livermore and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Nevada Test Site (where weapons were exploded until 1993).

"Without underground testing, above ground experiments (AGEX are the best means available to exercise and validate design judgment." -- U S. DOE FY 1996 Cong. Budget Request Project Data Sheets, Feb 1995, vol. 1, p. 306

"The new weapon procurement strategy calls for ongoing development of advanced weapons systems to retain America's technological edge in military systems. In contrast to past practice, however, these new weapon systems may not be immediately produced in quantity. Instead, the nation will retain the capability to produce them quickly in response to threatening world conditions." -- Sandia Nat'l Laboratories Institutional Plan, FY 1995-2000, Oct 1994, p. 5-13.

The United States tested its nuclear weapons by actual explosions above ground until 1962 (except for a brief period between 1958 and 1961), and below ground thereafter. For most of this period, the weapons laboratories advised political leaders that the "safety" and "reliability" of existing nuclear weapons, and the capability to develop new weapons, could be assured only by a regime of actual nuclear explosions.[4] The United States SBSS program, in concept, is an important shift of weapons doctrine because it represents that these goals can now be accomplished in the laboratory. [5]

Any discussion of SBSS and AGEX programs must initially confront the ambiguities in terminology employed by weapons designers and policy makers, and in particular, the use of the words "safety" and "reliability" to describe the purposes of AGEX. The term "safety" refers to at least two aspects of the nuclear weapon:

(1) its ability to survive aging, fire, or other destructive environmental influences or insults without releasing significant nuclear energy, and

(2) the compatibility of safety features with the weapon's performance.[6] Initially, weapons safety was accomplished by mechanically separating the component parts of the warhead.[7] At the present time, insensitive high explosives, fire resistant pits, and "one-point safety" features are employed to prevent a nuclear warhead from detonating in the event of an accident such as an air crash.[8]

The term "reliability," on the other hand, pertains to the weapon's performance to the specifications required by the military, which include the yield of the warhead, its likelihood to detonate under proper commands, and its ability to survive war conditions.[9] Reliability is closely linked to another pervasive term of the nuclear age, "deterrence." True deterrence is the capacity to deter another state's first use by credibly threatening second use. Reliability in the sense of a demonstrated ability to meet exacting specifications for the likelihood that a weapon will explode at a given yield is necessary not for the credible threat of second use, but rather for the threat of first use or first strike with a high probability of destroying precise targets, most importantly the elements of an enemy's nuclear capability. Nuclear policy makers have eradicated the distinction between true deterrence and threatened first use, and thereby justified demanding requirements for reliability, by referring to the ability to credibly threaten nuclear use under any circumstance as "deterrence." A policy of true deterrence based on the capacity to threaten second use does not require "reliability" but only a reasonable chance that the second use would result in a nuclear explosion.

Before a weapon enters the U. S. arsenal and is available for deployment, it must be "certified" by the U.S. Department of Energy as meeting the safety, reliability, and performance criteria specified by the military.[10] Prior to 1994, this was principally accomplished through actual underground nuclear explosions of representative test weapons at the Nevada Test Site.

In 1994, the Department of Energy, in response to the voluntary moratorium on below-ground explosions declared by the United States and Russia in 1993, proposed an advanced technology program to upgrade its capability to test weapons in the absence of actual underground explosions.[11] The program, known as "Science Based Stockpile Stewardship," encompasses many of the Department's activities related to nuclear weapons research and development.12] Its principal mission is to maintain the "reliability, safety and capability" of the nuclear weapons stock pile.[13] The United States Department of Defense, in its Nuclear Posture Review, has required the Department of Energy to ensure that it can "maintain capability to design, fabricate and certify new warheads" without underground nuclear testing.[14]

At the center of the above-ground testing program are sophisticated testing technologies designed to study and simulate the physics associated with nuclear weapons explosions. The Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program integrates a number of facilities and projects whose principal missions involve nuclear weapons experiments, component testing, or weapons-related nuclear physics,[15] although individually, some such programs (for example, Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF)) may have applied physics and materials-science applications apart from weapons. These"dual use" facilities have confused the discussion over SBSS and AGEX, since proponents of particular SBSS facilities such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF, see below) tend to describe such facilities outside the context of the entire SBSS program, and emphasize their capability for energy and "pure science" research as well as their AGEX role.[16]

"The NPR (Nuclear Posture Review) also directs the Departments of Defense and Energy to maintain nuclear weapon capability without underground nuclear testing and without the production of fissile material. Specifically, it directs the development of a stockpile surveillance engineering base; retention of the capability to refabricate and certify weapon types in the enduring stockpile; maintenance of the capability to design, fabricate, and certify new nuclear warheads should that prove necessary; and maintenance of the requisite supporting science and technology base."    ---Statement by Dr. Harold P.Smith,Jr.,Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), before the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, March 1, 1995

"Without underground tests, we will require better, more accurate computational capabilities to assure the reliability and safety of the nuclear weapons stockpile for the indefinite future. To achieve the required level of confidence in our predictive capability, it is essential that we have access to near-weapons conditions in laboratory experiments. The importance of nuclear weapons to our national security requires such confidence. For weapon primaries, that access is provided in part by hydrodynamic testing. For secondaries, the NIF will be the principal laboratory experimental physics facility.--     U S. DOE FY 1996 Cong. Budget Request, Project Data Sheets, Feb l995, vol 1, p. 330.

(a) Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF). The United States has developed advanced facilities for studying high-energy and high-density physics approaching the conditions for ignition of the tritium secondary component of a nuclear bomb. Two such facilities, Trident (at Los Alamos) and Nova (at Livermore), already exist.[17] These will be dwarfed by the planned National Ignition Facility (NIF), expected to be built at Livermore. NIF, which according to the latest government projection will cost approximately US $4.5 billion to construct and operate,[18] will be the world's largest laser, intended to bring about thermonuclear fusion within small confined targets.[19] According to a November 1994 report prepared by a consulting team commissioned by the U. S. Department of Energy (the "JASON Report”), NIF represents "the closest laboratory approach to a number of critical parameters in the weapons environment."[20] NIF's objective is to attain actual thermonuclear ignition by using 192 laser beams to produce 500 trillion watts of energy for 3 billionths of a second.[21] NIF is the largest and most expensive of the United States' AGEX programs now underway.

The memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Energy for Defense Programs Victor Reis to Undersecretary Charles B. Curtis recommending approval of preliminary design for the NIF, and signed by Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, states:

“In the absence of underground testing, the National Ignition Facility would be a critical tool for the Department's Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program. It would play an important role in maintaining the continued safety and reliability of the stockpile by creating experimental conditions that approach certain aspects of nuclear weapons physics. In particular, this experimental capability would allow nuclear weapons scientists to assess stockpile problems, verify computational tools, and increase their understanding of weapons physics.”[22]

The U.S. Department of Energy's FY 1996 Budget Request describes NIF as "a key element in the DOE-Defense Programs above-ground simulator experimental capabilities for maintaining nuclear weapons competence and nuclear weapons effects simulations."[23] Its importance as an AGEX program is further emphasized elsewhere in the budget documents:

“Since the Hatfield Amendment to Public Law 102-377, Section 507 calls for the end of underground testing in 1996, the weapons laboratories will begin to lose the ability to certify the safety and reliability of this country's nuclear weapons. (Department of Energy-Defense Programs) is developing a stockpile stewardship program to respond to the loss of underground testing capability. The NIF is one of the most vital facilities in that program. The NIF will provide the capability to conduct laboratory experiments to address the high energy density and fusion aspects that are so important to both primaries and secondaries in stockpile weapons”.[24]

Other NWS have or are developing inertial confinement fusion or related technologies, although on a smaller scale than NIF. The Russian laboratory at Arzamas-16 is reported to have an advanced laser facility "Iskra-5" capable of studying thermonuclear fusion physics.[25] The French Department of Military Applications, which has worked with Livermore Laboratory since 1981 on cooperative laser fusion programs, is now collaborating with Livermore to build a megajoule ICF laser facility in France.[26] A further concern is that ICF facilities might be valuable to proliferant states in developing advanced weapons already possessed by the existing NWS.[27]

(b) Pulsed Power Facilities. The United States, in cooperative arrangements with the United Kingdom and Russia, is developing advanced electrical "pulsed power" facilities capable of studying the effects on weapons and military hardware of extremely high pulses of energies simulating those created by nuclear explosions.[28] Current active programs include the Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator II (PBFA II) at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, the "world's fastest particle accelerator," which creates an intense ion beam to study weapons effects[29] Sandia also operates SATURN, a fast-pulsed accelerator used in weapons effects studies in cooperation with the United Kingdom and Russia.[30] At Los Alamos, PROCYON is an explosive pulsed-power system for direct-drive plasma implosions to produce "soft x-rays'~ for weapons physics experiments.[31]

"Above ground experiments (AGEX) that address secondary weapons physics require an energy rich, high energy density environment. To simultaneously achieve the full spectrum of conditions present in a nuclear weapon, an underground test is required. In above ground experiments in the laboratory, one can examine individual aspects of secondary weapons physics using three classes of facility: pulsed power for high energy; high energy lasers for high power; and ultra high-intensity lasers for extreme energy-density conditions. No single technology can access the full range of conditions to meet the needs of the weapons program for above-ground experiments."    -- U.S DOE FY 1996 Cong. Budget Request, Project Data Sheets, Feb. 1995j vol. 1, p. 305

Two important new pulsed power facilities are planned under SBSS. ATLAS will be capable of conducting hydrodynamic experiments on larger targets (in excess of 1 cm) as well as studying the melting and hydrodynamic properties of primaries. Its anticipated construction cost is US $43 million.[32] ATLAS is intended "to support the above ground experiments required to provide some kinds of data no longer available from underground nuclear testing."[33] At the conceptual stage is JUPITER, construction cost estimated at US $240 million, which will provide the world's "most powerful above-ground nuclear weapons effects test machine for x-rays."[34] Construction of JUPITER has not yet been authorized. The November 1994 JASON report commissioned by the Department of Energy recommended deferring any decision on JUPITER in part based on their conclusion that "experiments involving radiation or burn" could be accomplished by NIF.[35]

The French atomic weapons research laboratory at Gramat also conducts thermal pulse and electromagnetic flash experiments. Using generators developed in cooperation with an American company, the latter tests simulate the effect on equipment of a high altitude nuclear blast.[36]

(c) Hydrodynamic Test Facilities. These facilities study the physics of the primary component of thermonuclear warheads by simulating, often with high explosives, the intense pressures and heat on weapons materials. (The behavior of weapons materials under these extreme conditions is termed "hydrodynamic" because they seem to flow like liquids.)[37] Hydrodynamic experiments are in tended to closely simulate, using non-nuclear substitutes, the operation of the primary component of a nuclear weapon, which normally consists of high explosive and fissionable material (the plutonium "pit").[38] In hydrodynamic experiments, the properties of surrogate pits can be studied up to the point where an actual weapon releases fission energy.[39] High explosives are used to implode a surrogate non-fissile material while special X-ray devices ("dynamic radiography") monitor the behavior of the surrogate material under these hydrodynamic conditions.[40] Hydrodynamic testing is considered as "crucial to the continued confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear primaries.''[41]

Two existing facilities, the Flash X-Ray (FXR, at Livermore) and the Pulsed High-Energy Radiographic Machine Emitting X-rays (PHERMEX, at Los Alamos), currently provide advanced radiographic monitoring of hydrodynamic experiments.[42] Over the next five years, the Department of Energy plans to complete the Dual Axis Radiographic HydroTest (DAHRT) facility at Los Alamos, at a construction cost in excess of US $100 million.[43] The laboratories have also proposed construction of an even larger facility, currently known as the Advanced HydroTest Facility (AHTF), which is estimated to cost at least US $400 million to build and take ten years to complete,[44] with participation by both major weapons laboratories and the United Kingdom.[45]

While the usefulness for advanced NWS of inertial confinement fusion programs (such as NIF) in designing new weapons is disputed, there is little question that hydrodynamic tests provide valuable information in designing actual weapons primaries.[46] For this reason, detailed technical information on hydrodynamic tests remains highly classified.[47]

"Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory maintains and operates open-air high explosive test facilities at Site 300 as part of their Stockpile Stewardship Program. Many of the devices involved in these tests contain toxic and/or low-level radioactive materials (depleted uranium). The contained firing table concept is consistent with the development and application of advanced diagnostic techniques. Such new diagnostics are required in order that reliable new weapons may continue to be put into the arsenal, especially considering the current moratorium on nuclear testing and the pending Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." -- U. S. DOE FY 1996 Cong Budget Request, Project Data Sheets, Feb 1995, vol 1, p. 321 322

"Instead of test shots, our understanding will be based on computer simulations and analyses benchmarked against past data and new diagnostic information obtained from carefully designed above-ground and laboratory experiments.”     S.Drell, et al,;Science Based stockpile Stewardship [JASON report], November 1994, p 88

(d) Advanced Supercomputer Simulations. In the absence of actual nuclear explosions, the United States plans to substitute advanced computer modeling using supercomputers. Within SBSS, the

Department of Energy has undertaken the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), to develop"the computer simulation capabilities to establish safety, reliability, and performance of weapons in the stockpile, virtual prototyping for maintaining the current and future stockpile, and connecting output from complex experiments to system behavior."[48] The ultimate goal of ASCI is to create a "virtual testing and prototyping capability for nuclear weapons."[49] Reportedly, the U. S. has offered to provide China with computers that could aid in nuclear explosion simulations, in order to persuade Chinese military leaders to halt underground testing.[50]

(e) Hydronuclear Experiments. A much debated component of SBSS is the possible resumption of hydronuclear experiments. These experiments, which were conducted during the 1958-1961 testing moratorium, involve the actual testing of extremely low-yield fission devices (as low as the equivalent of several pounds of TNT) within a confined environment.[51] At this stage, the Clinton government has not announced a decision to proceed with hydronuclear tests, although there apparently is substantial pressure from the Defense Department and the weapons establishment to do so.[52] Congressional budget documents reveal that the laboratories in recent years have designed hydronuclear experiments "to investigate one-point safety, reliability and performance issues for current and past stockpiled primaries."[53]

As discussed below, any resumption of hydronuclear experiments has grave implications not only for compliance under Article VI of the NPT, but also for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Above-Ground Experiments and Article VI

During the 1968 NPT negotiations, the nuclear weapons states proposed an agenda of actions that would be recognized as "effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament" under Article VI. These included:

(1) the cessation of testing;

(2) the non-use of nuclear weapons;

(3) the cessation of production of fissionable materials for weapons use;

(4) the cessation of weapons manufacture; and

(5) the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear stockpiles.[54]

Since 1968, the lack of progress of the NWS toward these goals has attracted great concern among the non-nuclear countries.[55]

Under AGEX, Nuclear States Will Continue To Test Nuclear Weapons:

Under SBSS, the United States is investing billions of dollars in new equipment, technologies and physical plants in order to retain intact the infrastructure and technical capability for research, development, engineering and production of nuclear weapons in the absence of actual underground nuclear explosions.[56] As Dr. Vladimir Iakimets of the Russian Academy of Science recently commented, the result of these new technologies is that "instead of an (actual) test site we will have an informational test site."[57]

The aim of AGEX is "the full integration of the kind of capabilities that we've always been able to achieve in developing nuclear war heads and in our nuclear testing program."     --12-1-93 talk at Los Alamos Nat'l Lab, "The State of the Nuclear Weapons Programs," John Immele, Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons Technology, Los Alamos.

“[T]he development of rapid prototyping and agile manufacturing ~techniques must build on emerging simulation capabilities ~ so advanced that they enable virtual prototyping and processing and, ultimately, computational design of entire systems."     -- Sandia Nat'l Laboratories Institutional Plan, FY 1995-2000, Oct 1994, p 5-28.

Under the SBSS umbrella, the United States' high level above-ground experimental programs including ICF, ASCI and hydrodynamic test facilities are promoted as allowing a continuation of reliability (that is, yield and confidence) tests of weapons systems even under a CTBT. [58] Proponents of these technologies have stressed both the non-weapons applications of these technologies (particularly ICF) and the need to assure weapons safety. However, it is reasonably clear that the intent and design of these technologies extends far beyond the safety of the primary systems. Instead, the stated goal of the program is to ensure that the weapons systems work as intended, and are survivable.[59] Since one of the principal objectives of inertial confinement fusion as well as pulsed power facilities is to study the effects of nuclear weapons on sensitive equipment (including the weapon itself),[60] these uses must be distinguished from the more benign "safety" rationales for AGEX programs.

The vigorous AGEX program now underway in the United States is at odds with Article VI's mandate to the nuclear states to end nuclear testing and take other concrete steps towards halting the arms race and eliminating nuclear arsenals. Whether the tests are conducted in an underground explosion or in a high technology laboratory, the goal of maintaining weapons performance remains the same. The stated goal of AGEX as a replacement for underground tests[61] fundamentally misperceives the purpose of the CTBT, which is to be an "effective measure" to stop weapons development and move towards disarmament, rather than an end in and of itself. A CTBT affecting only underground explosions inevitably will perpetuate a discriminatory non-proliferation regime if advanced nuclear states retain the functional equivalent (or approximation) of underground explosions by way of aggressive AGEX programs.

The CTBT is an "effective measure" under Article VI only if it inhibits weapons advancement. If sophisticated AGEX programs provide the "informational testing" needed to remove technological barriers otherwise imposed by the elimination of actual nuclear explosions, the CTBT's effectiveness will be seriously eroded.

The Maintenance of Large Weapons Stockpiles under SBSS, and the Retention of Production and Design Capability, Is Inconsistent with Article VI:

One of the principal goals of the Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program is to enable the maintenance of thousands of warheads in a state of readiness. Currently, under START I and II, the United States envisions using SBSS to preserve a stockpile at or greater than START II levels (some 3,500 warheads deployed on strategic systems plus thousands in reserve or deployed in tactical systems). It is reasonably clear that the investment of billions of dollars into SBSS is inconsistent with any meaningful attempt to materially reduce the number of warheads in the arsenal towards zero. Indeed, the construction of expensive new facilities for stockpile maintenance will become a potent economic force blocking further arms reduction.

Another impact of SBSS will result from its stated purpose as a "hedge" in the case of a resurgent nuclear power or new proliferation threat.[62] Under this scenario, the combined AGEX facilities are expected to allow new weapons design and facilitate resumed production.[63] Over the next ten years, the United States will develop an advanced infrastructure not only for supervising the existing stockpile but also, if ordered, for developing and manufacturing new weapons and reconstituting the nuclear force.[64] Proposals for stockpile stewardship in conjunction with "stockpile management" include not only new nuclear weapons research, development, and testing facilities at the Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos laboratories, but also a retooled nuclear weapons production complex, centered at the labs and at the Pantex plant in Texas. This complex would be capable of turning out approximately 150 weapons a year, and more if needed on an emergency basis ("surge capacity").[65] United States planners have also recommended that SBSS provide for the contingency of resuming underground testing at the Nevada Test Site within 6 months up to FY 1996 and within two to three years there after.[66]

"The weapons laboratories must assume more responsibility for production capability in addition to their responsibilities for scientific understanding. Having a capability of creating a larger stockpile in an emergency could permit the U.S. to further reduce its active stockpile if international conditions so warrant.”     --Statement of Dr. Victor H. Reis, Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, Department of Energy, before the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, March 1995.

"Capabilities in Conceptual Design and Assessment are exercised through the exploration of concepts and technologies that offer potential options for meeting future needs. Through these efforts, future weapons and components are conceived. Although these activities do not involve formal hardware development, they may include a limited amount of prototyping or experimentation to assess or demonstrate conceptual feasibility. These efforts are often computationally intensive. Emphasis is placed upon the anticipation of future national security requirements and missions. Current areas of interest include, but are not limited to, advanced electromagnetic radiation, stealth, and enhanced safety features such as fire resistant pits (FRP), insensitive High Explosives (IHE), insertable nuclear components, paste explosives, and advanced containment. These capabilities are critical to sustaining ~the long term operational safety and the credibility of the nuclear deterrent."    -- U.S. DOE FY 1996 Cong Budget Request, Atomic Energy Defense Activities, Feb. 1995, vol. 1, p. 74

Since SBSS is a new program containing both conceptual and operational AGEX facilities, its actual capability to meet the demands of the Defense Department is uncertain. Based on the recent Nuclear Posture Review and related documentation, it appears on paper that military planners expect SBSS to fulfill most, if not all, his toric stockpile design and maintenance functions.[67] This includes the capability to design and certify new nuclear weapons though there is no current requirement for their manufacture.[68] These demands have triggered a secondary discussion about whether SBSS in fact has capabilities that would permit the design of new deployable weapons. The discussion is confused by the fact that the term "design" may be a term of art among weaponeers which excludes matters such as upgrades, modifications, or improvements on existing systems which are anticipated to continue under SBSS.[69] The theoretical debate over the ultimate capability of SBSS to generate deployable "new" weapons (as defined by the weapons designers) obscures the more fundamental question of whether the aggressive commitment to weapons modernization and maintenance of production capacity truly moves the United States and other NWS any closer to disarmament.

Like underground testing, laboratory testing is important not only for its contribution to the military readiness of the arsenal; it also signals the NWS' attitude towards the weapons as instruments of national power. The emphasis on reliability in SBSS underscores that the premise of broadly defined nuclear "deterrence," including the option of first use, remains unchanged in NWS' nuclear policies.[70] Article VI contemplates renunciation of the threat of use of nuclear weapons as a tool of national policy. SBSS and similar testing regimes under mine compliance with Article VI by sustaining the NWS' commitment to national security policies premised upon substantial arsenals and threatened first use.

The United States' economic and technological commitment to SBSS is therefore at odds with the Article VI goals of halting competitive weapons development and eventually achieving a treaty on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Having "hedged their bets" with SBSS and similar programs, the nuclear states' incentive to further disarm beyond START II will be lessened. Even more consequential will be the perception of many non-nuclear states that the "haves" have failed to live up to the promise made in Article VI.

Resumption of Hydronuclear Experiments Would Diminish the Effectiveness of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:

In hydronuclear tests, the laboratories combine explosives with a small amount of fissile material. Weapons designers sometimes refer to these as "zero yield" tests, although (unlike other AGEX technologies) actual energy is produced from fission.[72] The amount of fission energy produced is measurable in terms of pounds of TNT, rather than the kilotonnes or megatonnes TNT-equivalent normally associated with deployed nuclear weapons.[73] The resulting fission energy from the imploding core can be measured, matched against predictions, and used to gauge the performance of primary designs.[74]

Substantial debate exists within the arms control and weapons establishments concerning the potential resumption of hydronuclear experiments. Two particular issues have been identified:

( 1 ) whether such tests (of varying magnitudes) are "activities not prohibited" under a CTBT or testing moratorium,[72] and

(2) whether they pose a proliferation risk.[76]

When hydronuclear experiments were conducted during the 1958 to 1961 moratorium, the United States government assumed that tests of such small yield were not a violation of the moratorium.[77] There is no technical definition of a "nuclear weapons test explosion" within the current CTBT draft text.[78] In recent discussions, certain NWS have pressed for a threshold of several hundred tons below which tests would be exempted from the CTBT.[79] United States negotiators have proposed a four pound TNT-equivalent threshold, which corresponds to the safety certification standard for American primaries in the event the nuclear warhead is detonated at a single point.[80]

The hydronuclear test crosses the barrier between a "simulated" test and an actual fission event. While the ultimate amount of atomic energy resulting from hydronuclear tests may be small in comparison to even the conventional explosive "trigger," it is nonetheless a nuclear test. Once the decision is made to conduct actual hydronuclear experiments, a "comprehensive test ban" is transformed into a "threshold test ban." Such tests can be of value to both NWS and proliferant states in weapons design, especially if the threshold is set at tons or hundreds of tons of yield.[81] Hydronuclear testing thus presents a double threat. It undermines a CTBT as a true disarmament measure, reinforcing a discriminatory status quo, and it potentially encourages the spread of technology for the design of fission weapons outside existing NWS.[82]


“. . . But the overall impression that they (NWS) give is that of business as usual. The Cold War may be over and yes, the strategic nuclear competition between the Russian Federation and the United States shows signs of abating, but the relationship of NWS to their own nuclear weapons has not registered the kind of basic change that one might expect. They continue to rely on nuclear weapons and do not seem prepared to give them up in the foreseeable future. Quite the contrary, they are looking for ways to freeze the NPTs dichotomy between the nuclear haves and the nuclear have-nots. This does not bode well for the NPT or nuclear non-proliferation in general.”
Statement by Mexican Ambassador Miguel Marin-Bosch at the Fourth Session of the Preparatory Committee of the Review and Extension Conference of the Treaty On The Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, New York, January 23, 1995 (unofficial translation)

Fifty years after Hiroshima, the arms race between Russia and the United States has dissolved into each nation's preoccupation with its own economic future. Among the declared nuclear states, there are no outstanding nuclear rivalries. Russian and United States weaponeers are actively engaged in technology transfer and other cooperative arrangements.[83] In theory, the prospects for disarmament initiatives have never been brighter.

Unfortunately, none of the NWS appears to be prepared to renounce nuclear weapons as a core instrument of foreign policy. The United States' SBSS program is born of the insecure legacy of the Cold War. Its stated purpose as a "hedge" against over-the-horizon rivals will inhibit further "effective measures" toward disarmament promised by the signatory NWS in 1968. The NWS' commitment to development of advanced AGEX facilities to circumvent a CTBT is contrary to the reasonable expectations of the international community in signing the NPT.

The United States and other NWS should reaffirm their commitment to Article VI of the NPT by formally adopting the following "effective measures" toward disarmament:

(1) Current plans to undertake an aggressive AGEX program under the guise of Stockpile Stewardship should be terminated, and weapons stewardship activities limited to only those necessary to ensure the safety of existing nuclear weapons in their stockpiled condition while they await disablement and dismantlement under further arms reductions toward Article VI's objective of zero weapons. There is no existing need for further experiments to refine or develop designs, to evaluate weapons "effects," or to establish the "reliability" of particular weapons. Any stockpile stewardship program should encourage, not inhibit, the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

(2) The United States and other nuclear states should accept a zero yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with no threshold for permitted nuclear tests. The preamble of the CTBT should state the purpose of the treaty, consistent with NPT's Article VI, to preclude weapons development and preparations for nuclear tests.


1. See, for example, Bunn, Timerbaev and Leonard, "Nuclear Disarmament: How Much Have the Five Nuclear Powers Promised in the Non-Proliferation Treaty?", Lawyers Alliance for Word Security, June 1994, i (Bunn l); Bunn, "Extending the Non Proliferation Treaty: Legal Questions Faced By The Parties In 1995", American Society of International Law, October 1994, 7-8 (Bunn 11).

2. Bunn I, II, 13: "In the eyes of the NPT parties not having nuclear weapons, there is no question that a CTB is the most important measure the nuclear weapons states can adopt in satisfying their Article VI obligations."

3. See, for example, U.S. Department of Energy, FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Budget Highlights, February 1995, DOE/CR-0032, 15-6, 84-8. Similar statements were made by Arzamas-16 laboratory personnel at a four day conference attended by two of the authors in Nizhny-Novgorod, Russia, in July 1994.

4. For example, see Thorn & Westervelt, "Hydronuclear Experiments", Los Alamos National Laboratories, LA-10902, February 1987, p. 7: "The most important lesson learned from this experience [the 1958-1961 testing moratorium] was that a nation that depends upon nuclear weapons for its security can get into serious trouble during a testing moratorium or prohibition."

5. Drell, et al., "Science Based Stockpile Stewardship," JASON, The MITRE Corporation, November 1994, 1, 3 ("JASON"). The Jason Report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy to assess the proposed SBSS program and make specific recommendations. The reports concludes that all of DOE's proposed AGEX programs are of value to maintaining confidence in a stockpile program except for hydronuclear experiments.

6. See Cochran and Paine, "The Role of Hydronuclear Tests and Other Low Yield Nuclear Explosions and Their Status Under A Comprehensive Test Ban", National Resources Defense Council, March 1995, iv.; Thom, et. al., supra at 2-3.

7. Thom et al., supra at 1, 2.

8. Id.

9. U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense Interagency Working Group, "Stockpile Stewardship Program Plan for Fiscal Years 1995 through 1997", Draft, February 27, 1995, 5 ("Inter-Agency Working Group").

10. See Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 4.

11. The FY 1994 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 103-160) called upon the U.S. Secretary of Energy "to establish a stewardship program to ensure the preservation of the core intellectual and technical competencies of the United States in nuclear weapons, including weapons design, system integration, and certification." In response, the U.S. Department of Energy proposed the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship program. See JASON, supra at 11. See also U.S. Department of Energy, FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, DOE/CR-0030, vol. 1, February 1995, 21.

12. Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra at 22-3, 27.

13. Id.

14. U.S. Department of Defense, "Nuclear Posture Review", p. 27 (overhead projection), September 22, 1994.

15. Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra at 41-43.

16. For example, the press packet provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in November 1994 emphasizes the NIF's applications to nuclear fusion energy research and pure physics, with little mention of its technical role as an AGEX program. Similarly, in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's January-February 1994 Energy and Technology Review, the National Ignition Facility is categorized as a '“laser program" (p. 30) along with other civilian energy programs. The ambiguous public pronouncements concerning NIF have confused policy makers and the public as to its role and relevance to a weapons stewardship program.

Earlier policy statements leave less in doubt as to the interrelationship of advanced laser fusion facilities such as NIF and AGEX. "The Department of Energy program in inertial confinement fusion (ICF) is not now an energy program. It is an excellent program within Defense Programs (DP) that is generating information valuable to the nuclear weapons program. It is developing understanding and facilities that will permit the completion of the design and initiation of construction of a Laboratory Microfusion Facility (LMF) which in turn will have a major defense role . . .

We accept the NAS [National Academy of Sciences] judgment that the defense applications of ICF as embodied in the LMF are of great importance to weapons physics and weapons effects studies, and can be realized more certainly and much sooner than the energy goals. These applications would become urgent in the case of nuclear explosive testing limitations. It is thus appropriate that ICF remain primarily a defense program. Nevertheless, the promise of an inertial fusion energy program (IFE) seems to us to be sufficient to begin investment now in a small collateral program covering those areas not required for the DP program, e.g. repetition-rated, efficient drivers and reactor studies. We stress that the energy program makes sense only if the NAS recommended target physics program is pursued vigorously by DP, and care should be taken that adding an explicit energy mission not in any way impede or slow down the ICF progress." Fusion Policy Advisory Committee, Final Report (U.S. DOE September 1990), 39. The "LMF" may be a successor facility to NIF.

17. JASON, supra at 40-42 (NOVA); Los Alamos Science, No. 21, 1993, p. 67. These programs are summarized m Collina, "Above Ground Experiments (AGEX): What and Where They Are", Institute for Science and International Security (paper), July 7,

18. FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Project Data Sheets, Vol. 1, 332, February 1995, DOE/CR-0031.

19. JASON, supra at 39-43.

20. Id, 37

21. Id.; FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request Project Data Sheets, supra, vol. I, 328-9.

22. See also Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, FY 1996 Capital Assets Management Process Report, April 15, 1994 UCRI,AR-110100-94, at FU15-43: "The mission of the National ICF program is threefold: (I) to play an essential role in accessing physics regimes of interest in nuclear weapon design and to provide nuclear weapon

related physics data, particularly in the area of secondary design;

(2) to provide an aboveground simulation capacity for nuclear weapons effects on strategic, tactical, and space assets (including sensors and command and control); and

(3) to develop inertial fusion energy for civilian power production."

23. U.S. Department of Energy, FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Project Data Sheets, vol. 1, DOE/CR-0031, 328

See also Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Press Background Materials (undated) distributed November 1994: "Only the NIF, of the various proposed facilities, allows on a laboratory scale the study of the fusion aspects of a weapon. Both fusion and high energy density physics questions can be answered with NIF experiments, helping answer specific primary and secondary questions. Beyond direct stockpile inquiries, the NIF experiments provide empirical data to test the 'virtual detonations' of complex computer simulations."

24. Project Data Sheets, supra at 329.

25. Dr. Vladimir Iakimets, Russian Academy of Sciences, "Laboratory Conversion and CTB Negotiations," paper delivered at Russian US seminar in Nizhny-Novgorod, June 22-24, 1994.

26. "Le Projet de Laser Megajoule," Objectif (French scientific journal) 1994.

27. The U.S. Department of Energy has undertaken an unprecedented review of the potential impacts of the NIF on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The study will analyze the usefulness of NIF to proliferant states as well as to U.S. nuclear weapons designers. Federal Register/Vol. 59. No. 249/Thursday. December 29. 1994iNotices.67284: Notice of Public Meetings and Request for Comment Concerning the National Ignition Facility and the Issue of Nonproliferation.

28. JASON, supra at 71-2; Collina, supra at 5, citing Sandia National Laboratories, Summary Description of Facilities and Operations, August 1, 1992, 41.

29. JASON, supra at 72; Collina, supra at 5.

30. JASON, supra at 72; Collina, supra at 5.

31. JASON, supra.

32. Id. at 75.

33. FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol.1.42.

34. JASON, supra at 79.

35. Id.

36. Interview with Paul Rovaldes, Gramat laboratory worker, October 24, 1993.

37. Timothy R. Neal, "AGEX I, The Explosive Regime of Weapons Physics," Los Alamos Science, Number 21, 1993, 57.

38. JASON, supra at 3.

39. Id.

40. Id. at 4; Collina, supra at 1.

41. JASON, supra at 32.

42. JASON, supra at 28; Collina, supra at 1.

43. JASON, supra at 28-9.

44. Id at 4.

45. Id. at 32. A preliminary report on the AHTF is expected in summer 1995.

46. Id at 34.

47. Id.

48. FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol.1, 42.

49. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 21.

50. "Perry Emphasizes Pacific Stability." The Washington Post. October 19, 1994, A34.

51. The early hydronuclear experiments are described in Thorn and Westervelt,

52. While the JASON group discouraged the resumption of hydronuclear tests (JASON, supra at 22), in its draft report, the federal Inter-Agency Working Group recommended them as part of the SBSS program (Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 11).

53. FY 1996 Congressional Budget request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol. l, 75.

54. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Documents on Disarmament, 1968, 591, 593, cited in Bunn 1, supra at 9.

56. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 3.

57. Remarks by Dr. Vladinur Iakimets during an NGO presentation to the Fourth Preparatory Committee Meeting for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, January 27, 1995. (Transcript of panel presentation, "Laboratory Testing in a Test Ban/Non-Proliferation Regime," available from Western States Legal Foundation.)

58. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra. at 5; FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol. 1, 21-22.

59. See previous note.

60. See Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 14; FY 1996 Congressional Bud-get Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol. 1, 41: "Because of its conceptual similarity to certain aspects of nuclear weapons, the achievement of thermonuclear fusion will provide nuclear weapon physics data, particularly in the area of secondary design, and aboveground nuclear weapon effects simulation capabilities."

61. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 3.

62. U.S. Department of Defense News Release, "Remarks Prepared For Delivery By Secretary of Defense William J. Perry To The Henry L. Stimson Center," September 20, 1994, 2-3; U.S. Department of Defense News Release (Press Conference Comments by Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. John Deutch), September 22, 1994, 7.

63. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 8 (recommendations for SBSS include: "5. Maintain the capability to design, engineer, and certify new weapons.") See also Nuclear Posture Review (overhead slide), supra at 27 (same).

64. U.S. Department of Defense News Release dated September 20, 1994, supra at 3; U.S. Department of Defense News Release dated September 22, 1994, supra at 6-7.

65. Viewgraphs, Larry Woodruff, Presentation, "Downsizing the Capacity of the Nuclear Complex," August 1994, part of "The Weapons Laboratory System," presented to Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force on Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy Laboratories, National Security Subgroup, August 8, 1994. See also U.S. Department of Energy, Reconfiguration of the Nuclear Weapons Complex, "Notice to Separate the Current Reconfiguration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) into Two Separate Analyses: Tritium Supply and Recycling, and Stockpile Stewardship and Management," October 24, 1994.

66. Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 8.

67. Id. at 26-7.

68. Nuclear Posture Review (overhead slide), supra at 27.

69. The February 27, 1995 Draft Inter-Agency Working Group report, supra, lists a number of these "upgrades" of existing nuclear weapons systems at pages 28 and 29.

The Sandia National Laboratory FY 1995 - 2000 Institutional Plan purports to project a future downsized and consolidated nuclear weapons complex with continuing design work and "tight integration" of production to design. Much of this design/production is to take place in 'virtual reality' with 'agile manufacturing technologies' performed by robotics to meet future advanced weapons needs. Sandia National Laboratory Institutional Plan FY 1995 - 2000, October 1994, SAND94-1931 at 4-5, 5-2, 5-3, 5-5, 5-13, 5-28, 7-2, 7-6, 7-7, 7-10, 7-12, 7-16, 7-28.

In addition, the Department of Energy's FY 1996 Budget reflects conceptual work in 1994 and 1995 on at least two new weapons systems: the Precision Low Yield Warhead (PLYWD) and the High Power Radio Frequency Weapon. FY 1996 Congressional Budget Request: Atomic Energy Defense Activities, supra, vol. 1, 52. No budget allocation for these systems appear for fiscal year 1996. There also appears to be discussion in trade publications of conceptual work around a so-called "robust nuclear warhead" permitting a short, off-the-shelf time frame between design and deployment. "USAF, Los Alamos Eye Robust Nuclear Weapon Design for Future Generation," Inside The Air Force, April 1, 1994, 12.

70. See, for example, Inter-Agency Working Group, supra at 5: "As long as nuclear deterrence remains an essential element of national security policy, the safety, security, reliability and effectiveness of weapons systems in the nuclear stockpile must be assured."

71. See also Dr. Vladimir Iakimets, "CTBT Negotiations In Geneva, Nuclear Weapons States' Attitudes and Possible Pitfalls," paper presented in Hiroshima, Japan, August 1994, for discussion of United States and Russian 'first use' policies.

72. Thom & Westervelt, supra at 4.

74. Cochran & Paine, supra at 10-11.

75. Cochran & Paine, supra at i, ii. 76. JASON, supra at 21-2.

76. JASON, supra at 21-2.

77. Thom & Westervelt, supra at 5.

78. Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Nuclear Test Ban to the Conference on Disarmament, 5 September 1994, CD/1273/Rev. 1.

79. Id.; von Hippel, "The Problem of 'Permitted Experiments' Involving the Explosive Release of Fission Energy from imploded Fission Cores Under a Comprehensive Test Ban", draft paper, March 8, 1995 ('von Hippel'), 1. Frank von Hippel reports that some states have proposed limits as high as 1000 tons.

80. von Hippel, supra at 2.

81. JASON, supra at 21-22.

82. A third rationale that has been advanced for discouraging hydronuclear experiments is the technical argument that the information that arguably would be obtained from such experiments can be obtained by other AGEX methodologies such as advanced hydrodynamic tests. See, for example, von Hippel, supra.; Cochran & Paine, supra. We do not advocate this position in this article since we believe that the AGEX programs that are now underway as a whole do not advance the progress of NWS toward Article VI’s

disarmament goals, and have as their central purpose the perpetuation the existing stockpiles of thousands of nuclear weapons. Barring hydronuclear tests is of small solace to non-NWS if NWS invest billions of dollars in advanced AGEX facilities and in doing so can maintain virtually all aspects of a nuclear weapons program whether hydronuclear experiments are conducted or not.

83. These are described in the paper by Dr. Vladimir Iakamets of the Russian Academy of Sciences, "Labs Conversion and CTB Negotiations", delivered in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia in June 1994.

Source documents available from Western States Legal Foundation.