Subcritical experiment conducted

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty marks an historic milestone in efforts to reduce the nuclear threat by prohibiting any nuclear explosion, anytime, anywhere. President Clinton has announced concrete, specific Safeguards that define the conditions under which the United States will enter into a comprehensive test ban. These Safeguards strengthen the United States commitments in the areas of stockpile stewardship, maintenance of our nuclear laboratories, intelligence, monitoring and verification, and test readiness.
To help meet the Safeguards requirements, the Department of Energy successfully conducted a high explosive subcritical experiment, named Stagecoach, at the Nevada Test Site on March 25. Subcritical experiments are designed to obtain scientific data and technical information on the effects of aging and behavior of nuclear weapon materials. The experiments support DOE’s Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to maintain the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing. These experiments are called “subcritical” because no critical mass is formed and therefore no self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction can occur.
President Clinton recently visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and was
briefed on the Stockpile Stewardship Program. He was advised by all three Directors of our nuclear labs -- John Browne (Los Alamos), Bruce Tarter (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) and Paul Robinson (Sandia National Laboratories) of their confidence in the Stockpile Stewardship Program and its ability to maintain America’s nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing.
President Clinton, in his commitment to Stockpile Stewardship as a cornerstone of a comprehensive test ban, recently wrote to 30 members of Congress: “The CTBT enjoys the support of four former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the current Chairman, the Joint Chiefs, and the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. The support of our nation’s current and former military leaders for the CTBT is directly tied to the six CTBT Safeguards I announced on August 11, 1995. Four of these Safeguards are directly related to the DOE Stockpile Stewardship Program, underscoring the importance of this program to our nation’s security and to our arms control and nonproliferation policies.”
The President continued, “I want to assure you that the Stockpile Stewardship Program is being implemented in keeping with both the letter and spirit of the CTBT.”


The CTBT Safeguards are:

A. The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to insure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.
B. The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.
C. The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.
D. Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.
E. The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.
F. The understanding that if the President is informed by the Secretaries of Defense and Energy -- advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Directors of the DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratories and the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command -- that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two Secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the President, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard “supreme national interest” clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.

Produced by the White House Working Group on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
For more information on the CTBT: Phone: 202-647-8677 Fax: 202-647-6928