alert: US may resume nuclear weapons tests

From brian carroll <>
Date Mon, 9 Jul 2001 00:17:17 -0800

US may resume nuclear weapons tests

Special report: George Bush's America,7369,518717,00.html

Julian Borger in Washington
Monday July 9, 2001
The Guardian. copyright. (fair-use,

The Bush administration has commissioned a study on how quickly 
nuclear test sites in the Nevada desert could be put back into 
action, as part of a broad strategy of freeing the US from the 
constraints of the nuclear test moratorium and the 1996 comprehensive 
test ban treaty.

A readiness review of the Nevada test site has been ordered by 
General John Gordon, the head of the national nuclear security 
administration (NNSA), who told a congressional committee: "During 
this year we will look hard again at improving test site readiness 
and will review whether an appropriate level of resources is being 
applied to this vital element of stockpile stewardship."

The US signed the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) five years 
ago, but in 1999 the Senate - then under Republican control - voted 
not to ratify it. Meanwhile, the US is abiding by a nine-year-old 
moratorium on nuclear tests.

The new administration is reviewing both the treaty and the 
moratorium, in the belief that they represent an obstacle to 
maintaining the efficacy and safety of the US nuclear stockpile, and 
that they are fundamentally unverifiable.

Pentagon officials are also examining the potential of a new range of 
low-yield "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons, which would require 
testing to develop, they say.

Asked in a recent interview whether the US would break the 
moratorium, the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz said: "Well, 
there may be circumstances where, particularly if we develop 
questions about the reliability or safety of our nuclear weapons, 
where you would have to contemplate doing that."

US nuclear experts believe that it would take up to three years to 
get the Nevada underground test site ready, from the moment a 
presidential decision was taken. A congressional commission said 
earlier this year that it wanted to cut that time to three to four 

The White House has also been investigating ways of extracting the 
test ban treaty from the Senate so that the administration could 
formally withdraw from it, but has been told by lawyers that there 
are no legal means of doing so.

However, although the Democrats now have a majority in the Senate, 
they concede they do not have the two-thirds majority necessary to 
ratify the CTBT and force the president's hand.

Therefore the treaty is in limbo and administration officials have 
said that that is where the White House is content to leave it. "We 
don't support CTBT and we don't support its ratification," one 
official told the French Press Agency yesterday. "The key is to have 
an effective counter-proliferation programme. In our view, CTBT is 
not an effective anti-proliferation regime."

The Bush administration's strategy now is to persuade its European 
allies to place less weight on the CTBT, portraying it as a 
cumbersome leftover from the cold war - the same line as Washington 
is taking with the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty.

To that end, the US is trying to remove discussion of the CTBT from 
the agenda of the G8 summit in Genoa later this month, and to scrub 
any mention of it from the summit's final communique.

Meanwhile, news that the administration is taking the first steps 
necessary for a resumption of nuclear tests in Nevada has alarmed 
local activists. Preston Truman, the director of one group, the 
Downwinders organisation, said: "The Bush administration has been 
undermining the ABM treaty, and the outer space treaty; now this 
signal that they may resume below-ground testing also leads to an 
ominous conclusion - that the US is preparing to unilaterally 
jettison an arms control regime fostered by every president since 

  the electronetwork-list
  electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization